Any serious football fan is familiar with the phrase "staying on schedule." Three and four yard gains are great as long as it gets you 3rd and 2 while no gains or worse yet, negative yardage plays put your defense in 3rd and long.
We know 3rd and long is a very bad thing right?
Harder to make because the defense knows what is coming so they tee off on the QB is just one reason we don't want 3rd and long.
We know how to stay on schedule like tell that running back to just fire up into that hole and checkdown on 2nd and long, better to get a few yards than nothing at all. Got to stay away from that 3rd and long and keep churning out those 1st downs.
That's the way the game is played now right?
Well wrong if you have a real NFL quarterback.
I'll agree if your QB is an average QB, you play that way—that's how Brad Johnson won a Super Bowl in 2002, even Eli Manning in 2008. Protect the ball and get positive yardage.
But what if you don't have an average QB?
What if your QB is named Brady or Brees?
The problem with staying on schedule is it eliminates the best third down play. That's the third down play that never happened because you got a first down on second down.
Try looking at it this way, if it's 2nd and 6 you're right on schedule right?
Keep running that ball then convert that 3rd and 2, that's the way football is supposed to be played.
Sure, in the last century. This is a new game they are playing; well, some of the teams are playing.
Remember that 2nd and 6; what if you try a couple of eight yard passes instead of a running play?
Don't even have to covert on second down, if you go 50 percent you still get the first down. In other words, you can try to be perfect on two plays or hit on one of two plays.
As far as that goes, the team doesn't even have to be perfect on one play if your QB and WR are perfect. Just read the coverage and get the ball out there quickly. Unless the pass rusher is Usain Bolt, he can't get there fast enough to disrupt the play.
I know what you're thinking right about now. I talk big, do I have any proof?
How about eight of the top 10 teams by yardage per game last year were in the bottom ten in third downs attempted. Last year's Super Bowl participants were the Saints at 29th and Colts at 30th in third downs attempted last year.
We have been conditioned that third down is the money down and that's when you grade a QB. So does that mean teams that have a higher third down conversion rate like Miami (second) and Jacksonville (fourth) have a better QB then NE (eighth), Houston (15th), or Arizona (24th) last year?
Of course not. Brady, Schuab, and Warner know you can get a first down on second down too and all three of those QBs led their team to more yards, and more importantly more points, than the Dolphins or Jags. Even more important, they won more games too.
Let's compare Indy and the Jets a minute. The Jets were first in rushing yardage and fifth in average per rush while the Colts were 32nd and 31st last year. Throw in the top-rated defense for the Jets against a pretty average defense for the Colts it looked like the Jets should be able to play the Colts pretty well.
Remember that playoff game?
Jets started out well, Sanchez was staying on schedule, even had that big play to Edwards and the defense was holding up fine. With 2:16 left in the first half it was Jets 17 and Colts 6.
Three plays later it's 17 to 13 going into halftime and when the Colts drove 57 yards and a TD with their first possession of the second half it was over. Important to note that was an eight play drive that included only one third down, no schedule used there.
When the Colts drove 80 yards and a TD to put the game away in the 4th quarter they used seven plays and no third downs. Even when they were running out the clock they went on a 12-play drive where six of the plays gained one yard or less. When you average 10 yards a play on the other six plays you can do stuff like that.
Still not convinced?
How about Miami, will you listen to Bill Parcells?
Last year the Dolphins were eighth in total first downs and time of possession and second in third down conversions. They were fourth in rushing yardage and eighth in average yards per rushing attempt. This was an old school, Bill Parcells tough, stay on schedule offense, even a little wildcat to keep the defenses on their toes.
Problem is they were 17th in yardage gained and 15th in points scored. That was enough for Parcells to trade for Brandon Marshall.
You know the game has changed when Parcells trades a couple of second round picks for a WR with attitude problems.
Yep, if your team doesn't have a real QB keep those schedules handy.
Pay attention to that rushing average and that QB completion percentage. Hope your defense is exceptional and worry about field position, that's a whole another article by the way.
But if you are Peyton Manning or Tom Brady the only reason you need a schedule is to check where the Patriots and Colts game is played this year.