Thursday, January 24, 2008

Season in Review: Third Down

In our reviews of first down plays and second down plays we've seen that while the mix of running plays v. passing plays has largely remained the same, the effectiveness of those plays (i.e. the average yardage gained per play) has steadily declined in recent seasons.

Now we turn our attention to third down plays, during the seasons 2000-2007, to determine whether the decline in yardage gained on first and second downs exhibited itself in play calling on third down, and whether or not the Steelers faced more third-and-long (i.e. 6 or more yards to go for a first down or a touchdown). As we've done with the downs one and two, here is a breakdown onn the numbers of running plays and passing plays called on third downs over the course of the last eight seasons:

Rushing Plays5673604864663649
Passing Plays174162163179155126181172
Total Plays230235223227219192217221

There's nothing especially revealing about these numbers. In 2007 the Steelers had the fourth lowest total number of third down plays, the third lowest number of rushing plays, and the fourth lowest/highest number of passing plays. Additionally, for what it's worth, the number of running plays in 2007 was distinctly below average (56.5) while the number of passing plays was distinctly above average (164).

But of course our reason for continuing on with this analysis is to examine whether or not the Steelers faced significantly more third-and-long situations in 2007 than in seasons past. Here's a graphical look at that:

So there were more third-and-long situations in 2007 than in 2006, but only five more; however the real difference occurred from 2005 to 2006 -- while 2007 represented a continuation of that disturbing trend.

Finally, in the interest of thoroughness, we offer a look at the average yards gained per play on third down:

Once again we see a very interesting trend in which yardage for rushing and passing plays consistently move in the same direction, indicating that the effectiveness of rushing and passing enjoys a much more symbiotic relationship than we would have previously believed.

Labels: ,