Thursday, September 25, 2008

Offensive Efficiency, downs

OK, so I used the off week to look at another aspect of offensive efficiency rating--most notably, what is happening on third down.

For back ground information, on the left sidebar you can find links to an explanation of this whole thing, as well as a link to the data online, if you are so interested.

I decided to look at downs because it is my theory that third down makes football teams. Yes, it matters if you do well on first and second down because they can make third down easier, but the ability to stay on the field or get off the field on 3rd down is critical to winning football.

So, I analyzed each play of the initial three games. And, what I found was actually pretty surprising.

We're terrible on third down.

I mean, we're losing every down to the other team. But, we're terrible on third down.

For example, on first down, we are getting .79 points per play, and our opponents are getting .94.

On second down, we are getting .75 points per play, and our opponents are getting .91.

On third down, our opponents are getting .8 points per play...and we are getting .16.

Wow. That's pretty significant. We actually had negative points on third down at Boise.

Now, its a little harder to score on third down, because the system doesn't have a 2 point play. You either make it (1 point) or you don't (0 points.) If you lose more than three yards, you lose a point and a turnover is -4. Big positive plays can score three or more.

But, our opponents are getting .8, so for us to be 1/5 as productive, at least on this measure, has some significance.

I looked into it as it related to Boise. We're converting 38% on third down for the season, so you wouldn't expect the number to be that low. We're had a number of bad plays, though , on third down, including three turnovers and a few other sacks and tackles for loss.

Against Boise, for example, we had 17 3rd down plays. We made six but had four negative plays. That's not a great ratio.

I'm not sure what all of this means. A turnover on third down is no worse than a turnover on second down...I don't think, and losing yardage on third down is only really bad if it severely impacts field position or a fourth down attempt.

But I do know this. If you want to know why our offense is sputtering besides turnovers (and that's not the only thing), you might look to 3rd down performance as another clue.

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