Third Down Defense: Inside the Numbers

We've all seen how the Colts have struggled on 3rd downs this year.  Seemingly every third down is converted by our opponent, especially at the most inopportune times.  I decided to take a closer look at the Colts 3rd down defense, breaking it down by:

  • Run/Pass
  • Distance

Here is a summary of the first 8 games, and after the jump I'll put each individual game, so you can see how the defense did against each opponent.

  Total
  Run Pass Total
  Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Pct
Short (≤ 3) 16 16 7 13 23 29 79%
Middle (4 - 7) 2 7 18 36 20 43 47%
Long (8+) 1 9 8 26 9 35 26%
Total 19 32 33 75 52 107 49%
Pct 59.4% 44.0% 48.6%  

Some things to notice:

  • Running plays on Third and short are a perfect 16/16.  That, to put it bluntly, is awful.  We have not stopped a 3rd and short on the ground all year.  It's true we've had some struggles with the DL, but that is absolutely unacceptable.
  • Related to the first point, why would a team try to pass the ball on the Colts with 3rd and short?  Minnesota was the worst, going 0/3, and not trying to run it at all on 3rd and short.
  • Teams are only 3/16 running the ball on 3rd and 4 or more.  That is very good, and unexpected.  Teams have tried to catch the defense off guard in a passing situation, and it hasn't worked. 
  • There were only 2 times that the defense stopped the 3rd down, but had a penalty that gave the other team a first down.  I certainly thought it was more, but it was only twice.  And only once did it lead to points.
  • The Titans were 4/6 on 3rd and longs.  That game can boil down right to that.  Even just stopping 2 of those could have been the difference.
  • Overall, the Colts rank 30th in 3rd down percentage.  My numbers are slightly different, as I included those 2 cases where a penalty gave the other team a first down a conversion, while officially they were fails.  That seems dumb to me, but it is what it is.  If the Colts expect to make the playoffs, this needs to dramatically improve.  Getting down under 40% should be the goal.

Like I said above, game by game numbers are after the jump. 

  Chicago Minnesota
  Run Pass Total Run Pass Total
  Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att
Short (<= 3) 5 5 2 2 7 7 0 0 0 3 0 3
Middle (4 - 7) 1 2 1 2 2 4 0 2 2 4 2 6
Long (8+) 0 2 1 3 1 5 0 0 0 4 0 4
Total 6 9 4 7 10 16 0 2 2 11 2 13
  Jacksonville Houston
  Run Pass Total Run Pass Total
  Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att
Short (<= 3) 3 0 1 3 4 2 2 3 3 5 5
Middle (4 - 7) 1 2 4 5 5 7 0 0 1 3 1 3
Long (8+) 0 0 0 3 0 3 1 3 0 2 1 5
Total 4 5 4 9 8 14 3 5 4 8 7 13
  Baltimore Green Bay
  Run Pass Total Run Pass Total
  Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att
Short (<= 3) 1 1 1 1 2 2 1 1 0 1 1 2
Middle (4 - 7) 0 0 0 4 0 4 0 0 4 8 4 8
Long (8+) 0 1 1 4 1 5 0 1 1 1 1 2
Total 1 2 2 9 3 11 1 2 5 10 6 12
  Tennessee New England
  Run Pass Total Run Pass Total
  Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att Conv Att
Short (<= 3) 2 2 0 1 2 3 2 2 1 1 3 3
Middle (4 - 7) 0 0 2 5 2 5 0 1 4 5 4 6
Long (8+) 0 1 4 5 4 6 0 1 1 4 1 5
Total 2 3 6 11 8 14 2 4 6 10 8 14
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