Inside 3rd Down Run vs. Pass Success - NFL 2009 Defense

Earlier this week we took a look at how NFL Offenses did in various situations on Third Down, and we found that the Colts were pretty dominant in 2009 (in other news, water is wet).  But as we all know, there are two sides to every football team, so let's look at the defense, and see how underwhelming the Colts were in 2009.

As a refresher, here are the NFL Averages for 2009:

Short (1-3) Medium (4-7) Long (8+) Run Pass Total
Run Pass Total Run Pass Total Run Pass Total
65.4% 54.0% 59.6% 25.8% 41.9% 40.2% 9.6% 25.4% 23.7% 47.9% 36.5% 39.0%

Now, would you believe me if I told you that the Colts did lead the league in one aspect of Third Down Defense?  If you really think about it, it should not surprise you what that is.  Follow me after the jump to find out the answer, and see how the Colts Defense stacked up against others in 2009...

Here's the breakdown for Defenses in 2009:

Team Short (1 - 3) Medium (4 - 7) Long (8+)
Run Pass Run Pass Run Pass
Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct
49ers 14 25 0.560 17 34 0.500 2 3 0.667 27 71 0.380 0 15 0.000 28 92 0.304
Bears 20 34 0.588 12 27 0.444 1 6 0.167 32 71 0.451 0 7 0.000 28 81 0.346
Bengals 21 29 0.724 16 32 0.500 4 9 0.444 23 66 0.348 0 7 0.000 18 68 0.265
Bills 26 33 0.788 19 37 0.514 0 9 0.000 28 62 0.452 3 14 0.214 20 85 0.235
Broncos 20 32 0.625 21 37 0.568 3 10 0.300 22 58 0.379 2 7 0.286 13 74 0.176
Browns 20 28 0.714 13 31 0.419 2 10 0.200 30 71 0.423 0 4 0.000 21 77 0.273
Buccaneers 21 28 0.750 16 22 0.727 4 13 0.308 23 69 0.333 0 13 0.000 22 69 0.319
Cardinals 20 35 0.571 15 33 0.455 2 6 0.333 25 63 0.397 1 13 0.077 19 82 0.232
Chargers 20 33 0.606 16 31 0.516 2 7 0.286 31 64 0.484 0 3 0.000 14 66 0.212
Chiefs 24 35 0.686 15 33 0.455 2 8 0.250 26 67 0.388 0 6 0.000 19 74 0.257
Colts 29 39 0.744 22 38 0.579 4 12 0.333 37 72 0.514 0 2 0.000 12 68 0.176
Cowboys 10 17 0.588 14 24 0.583 0 1 0.000 23 63 0.365 1 7 0.143 22 88 0.250
Dolphins 12 17 0.706 17 32 0.531 1 6 0.167 23 66 0.348 2 9 0.222 14 68 0.206
Eagles 11 23 0.478 18 32 0.563 1 5 0.200 22 57 0.386 2 12 0.167 23 96 0.240
Falcons 20 27 0.741 21 31 0.677 3 7 0.429 34 67 0.507 0 6 0.000 19 76 0.250
Giants 23 27 0.852 15 31 0.484 2 8 0.250 13 41 0.317 0 13 0.000 25 80 0.313
Jaguars 20 33 0.606 17 30 0.567 4 14 0.286 32 51 0.627 1 13 0.077 20 68 0.294
Jets 25 38 0.658 8 21 0.381 2 6 0.333 21 61 0.344 4 12 0.333 13 85 0.153
Lions 19 32 0.594 20 32 0.625 0 2 0.000 28 60 0.467 0 11 0.000 17 74 0.230
Packers 12 21 0.571 15 31 0.484 0 4 0.000 20 49 0.408 0 8 0.000 28 98 0.286
Panthers 16 28 0.571 16 27 0.593 1 3 0.333 22 56 0.393 1 12 0.083 15 72 0.208
Patriots 22 34 0.647 15 33 0.455 0 4 0.000 18 52 0.346 0 5 0.000 24 73 0.329
Raiders 23 34 0.676 12 21 0.571 3 11 0.273 22 61 0.361 2 16 0.125 18 76 0.237
Rams 30 38 0.789 11 22 0.500 0 5 0.000 33 69 0.478 1 11 0.091 17 65 0.262
Ravens 19 27 0.704 16 28 0.571 2 8 0.250 25 72 0.347 1 9 0.111 19 76 0.250
Redskins 19 34 0.559 21 32 0.656 0 4 0.000 28 62 0.452 1 13 0.077 20 74 0.270
Saints 22 32 0.688 14 31 0.452 3 11 0.273 26 71 0.366 2 6 0.333 15 65 0.231
Seahawks 14 30 0.467 25 39 0.641 2 8 0.250 26 56 0.464 1 7 0.143 21 84 0.250
Steelers 24 29 0.828 19 37 0.514 4 7 0.571 26 56 0.464 1 12 0.083 28 92 0.304
Texans 15 25 0.600 11 25 0.440 2 8 0.250 32 71 0.451 2 10 0.200 21 66 0.318
Titans 17 27 0.630 22 30 0.733 1 5 0.200 29 63 0.460 1 12 0.083 20 83 0.241
Vikings 11 23 0.478 13 23 0.565 1 5 0.200 30 61 0.492 0 7 0.000 17 84 0.202
Total 619 947 0.654 522 967 0.540 58 225 0.258 837 1999 0.419 29 302 0.096 630 2479 0.254
Team Short (1 - 3) Medium (4-7) Long (8+) Run Pass Total
Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct Conv Att Pct
49ers 31 59 0.525 29 74 0.392 28 107 0.262 16 43 0.372 72 197 0.365 88 240 0.367
Bears 32 61 0.525 33 77 0.429 28 88 0.318 21 47 0.447 72 179 0.402 93 226 0.412
Bengals 37 61 0.607 27 75 0.360 18 75 0.240 25 45 0.556 57 166 0.343 82 211 0.389
Bills 45 70 0.643 28 71 0.394 23 99 0.232 29 56 0.518 67 184 0.364 96 240 0.400
Broncos 41 69 0.594 25 68 0.368 15 81 0.185 25 49 0.510 56 169 0.331 81 218 0.372
Browns 33 59 0.559 32 81 0.395 21 81 0.259 22 42 0.524 64 179 0.358 86 221 0.389
Buccaneers 37 50 0.740 27 82 0.329 22 82 0.268 25 54 0.463 61 160 0.381 86 214 0.402
Cardinals 35 68 0.515 27 69 0.391 20 95 0.211 23 54 0.426 59 178 0.331 82 232 0.353
Chargers 36 64 0.563 33 71 0.465 14 69 0.203 22 43 0.512 61 161 0.379 83 204 0.407
Chiefs 39 68 0.574 28 75 0.373 19 80 0.238 26 49 0.531 60 174 0.345 86 223 0.386
Colts 51 77 0.662 41 84 0.488 12 70 0.171 33 53 0.623 71 178 0.399 104 231 0.450
Cowboys 24 41 0.585 23 64 0.359 23 95 0.242 11 25 0.440 59 175 0.337 70 200 0.350
Dolphins 29 49 0.592 24 72 0.333 16 77 0.208 15 32 0.469 54 166 0.325 69 198 0.348
Eagles 29 55 0.527 23 62 0.371 25 108 0.231 14 40 0.350 63 185 0.341 77 225 0.342
Falcons 41 58 0.707 37 74 0.500 19 82 0.232 23 40 0.575 74 174 0.425 97 214 0.453
Giants 38 58 0.655 15 49 0.306 25 93 0.269 25 48 0.521 53 152 0.349 78 200 0.390
Jaguars 37 63 0.587 36 65 0.554 21 81 0.259 25 60 0.417 69 149 0.463 94 209 0.450
Jets 33 59 0.559 23 67 0.343 17 97 0.175 31 56 0.554 42 167 0.251 73 223 0.327
Lions 39 64 0.609 28 62 0.452 17 85 0.200 19 45 0.422 65 166 0.392 84 211 0.398
Packers 27 52 0.519 20 53 0.377 28 106 0.264 12 33 0.364 63 178 0.354 75 211 0.355
Panthers 32 55 0.582 23 59 0.390 16 84 0.190 18 43 0.419 53 155 0.342 71 198 0.359
Patriots 37 67 0.552 18 56 0.321 24 78 0.308 22 43 0.512 57 158 0.361 79 201 0.393
Raiders 35 55 0.636 25 72 0.347 20 92 0.217 28 61 0.459 52 158 0.329 80 219 0.365
Rams 41 60 0.683 33 74 0.446 18 76 0.237 31 54 0.574 61 156 0.391 92 210 0.438
Ravens 35 55 0.636 27 80 0.338 20 85 0.235 22 44 0.500 60 176 0.341 82 220 0.373
Redskins 40 66 0.606 28 66 0.424 21 87 0.241 20 51 0.392 69 168 0.411 89 219 0.406
Saints 36 63 0.571 29 82 0.354 17 71 0.239 27 49 0.551 55 167 0.329 82 216 0.380
Seahawks 39 69 0.565 28 64 0.438 22 91 0.242 17 45 0.378 72 179 0.402 89 224 0.397
Steelers 43 66 0.652 30 63 0.476 29 104 0.279 29 48 0.604 73 185 0.395 102 233 0.438
Texans 26 50 0.520 34 79 0.430 23 76 0.303 19 43 0.442 64 162 0.395 83 205 0.405
Titans 39 57 0.684 30 68 0.441 21 95 0.221 19 44 0.432 71 176 0.403 90 220 0.409
Vikings 24 46 0.522 31 66 0.470 17 91 0.187 12 35 0.343 60 168 0.357 72 203 0.355
Total 1141 1914 0.596 895 2224 0.402 659 2781 0.237 706 1474 0.479 1989 5445 0.365 2695 6919 0.390

Some thoughts and observations:

  • Even though the Colts finished 28th in Short Yardage, and 30th in Medium Yardage, they led the league in Long Yardage situations, only giving up 17.1% of 3rd and Longs against them.  Considering the style of defense the Colts play, that isn't surprising at all.  What's a little worrisome is that the Colts had the 2nd fewest 3rd and Long attempts against them in the NFL, only bested by the Chargers.
  • The Colts were horrendous against the run on Third Down, finishing last in the league at 62.3%.  Here's hoping this gets cleaned up this season, and hovers, at a minimum, around the league average.  A big part of this 3rd and Short runs, where the Colts finished 27thSurprisingly enough, the two worst teams on Short Yardage runs were the Giants and Steelers, two teams I'd never expect to be that high, and both over 80%.
  • Another point on 3rd and Short:  The Colts faced the most 3rd and Short Runs in the league last year, with 39.  They also faced the 2nd most 3rd and Short Passes, with 38.  Put them together, and they faced 77 3rd and Shorts last year, easily most in the league.  That's almost 5/game.  I think this emphasizes how often the Colts couldn't stop other offenses on 1st and 2nd down, just as much as on 3rd down.
  • 3rd and Medium Pass Defense finished 31st in the league, but it was no where near how epically bad the Jaguars were.  To give you an idea just how bad they were, the difference between the Jaguars and Colts (10.3%), was a larger difference than that of the Colts and Packers, who finished 17thThey would have finished 27th in the 3rd and Short Passing category!  The Colts should never run the ball on 3rd and Medium against the Jaguars (7/9 last year), even though the rest of the league seemed to want to (14 runs, most in the league, none by the Colts).

The problems the Colts had on Third Down and 7 or less minimized the affect the Third and Long defense had on opponents, which was excellent.  The problem was getting opposing offenses into 3rd and Long, which happened less than they got opponents into 3rd and Short (only team in the league to do that).  This tells me that a further emphasis needs to be put on 1st and 2nd downs, causing longer yardage Third downs.  Improving this will make the Overall Third Down defense better, without actually changing the percentages in the three distance categories.

Now that we've covered all aspects of 2009, next time I'll look back at the Colts offense from 2001-2009, and see a year-by-year comparison of the greatness turned in by the Colts.

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