Third Down Problems … Friday Cup O’Chiefs

Nine percent.

That’s a great number for the increase in the value of your investments in this down economy. It’s a very good number to shoot for when it comes to body fat. Any time you can get nine percent discount, it’s a wonderful thing.

But when it comes to third downs in the NFL, nine percent is ugly. It’s bad. It sucks.

That’s what the Chiefs were on Monday night when they faced third down. They moved the chains just once in the 11 third down plays they faced on the night. In what was overall a fairly pedestrian offensive performance, the work on third down was the worst feature of the evening. The explanation for 197 yards on just 40 offensive plays (compared to San Diego’s 389 yards on 70 plays) is that nine percent conversion rate.

The Chiefs offense could not stay on the field.

“We have to get better in third down,” said QB Matt Cassel. “That’s something that as an offensive unit if you’re not good on third down week-in and week-out, it’s very difficult to continue to move the ball, especially when you’re in third-and-long situations. I think we just have to work on being more productive on first and second down and getting ourselves into manageable third-down situations.

“When you’re in manageable third-down situations you have the ability to run or pass and you keep the defense on their toes versus being in third-and-long, you know they’re pinning their ears back and they’re coming.”

On average for those 11 third down plays, the Chiefs were 3rd-and-7.4 yards. Cassel was one of seven throwing the ball on those plays, but the net passing yardage was seven yards after a six-yard sack is deducted. Three running plays produced just two yards. Nine of the 11 plays went for no or negative yardage.

That’s 11 plays, nine yards and one first down, a 13-yard Cassel to WR Dwayne Bowe. Here’s how it broke down:

  • 3rd-and-8 @ Chiefs 30 – Cassel throws incomplete to RB Thomas Jones on the short left. 0 for 1.
  • 3rd-and-8 @ Chiefs 22 – Cassel sacked by OLB Shaun Phillips for minus-six yards. 0 for 2.
  • 3rd-and-4 @ Chargers 26 – Charles up the middle, tackles by Phillips for minus-6. 0 for 3.
  • 3rd-and-8 @ Chiefs 43 – Cassel throws incomplete to WR Chris Chambers. 0 for 4.
  • 3rd-and-4 @Chiefs 39 – Cassel throws incomplete to TE Tony Moeaki. 0 for 5
  • 3rd-and-10 @ Chargers 39 – Cassel throws incomplete to Chambers. 0 for 6.
  • 3rd-and-4 @ Chiefs 26 – Cassel throws incomplete to WR Dexter McCluster. 0 for 7.
  • 3rd-and-9 @ Chiefs 31 – Charles ran for eight yards. 0 for 8.
  • 3rd-and-3 @ Chiefs 37 – Cassel finds WR Dwayne Bowe for 13 yards and a first down. 1 for 9.
  • 3rd-and-20 @ Chargers 41 – Cassel throws incomplete to Bowe. 1 for 10.
  • 3rd-and-3 @ Chiefs 39 – Charles carries around right end for no gain. 1 for 11.

“That’s not going to fly for an extended period of time,” said veteran G Brian Waters. “We’ve got to stay on the field and the only way to do that is to string together some plays, and that takes converting third downs.”

Improvement starts on first and second downs. The Chiefs had 19 first down snaps for 94 yards, but 56 yards came on a single play – the 56-yard TD run by Charles. On the other 18 plays, they gained 38 yards, or an average of 2.1 yards gained per first-down snap. On 17 second down plays, the average was 8.3 yards to go for a first down.

It’s the simple math of offensive football. If a team wants to be better on third down, it has to be better on second down. If it wants to be better on second down, it has to improve on first down. If the offense wants to stay on the field, there must be first-down improvement, to make converting second and third down plays.

Although not happy with the nine percent conversion rate, Haley wasn’t apologizing for the number either because of the conditions Monday night.

“One of 11 is what we had to do to win,” said Haley. “We didn’t want to be one for 11. What we couldn’t be was five of 11 and have a ball get tipped and intercepted. In that particular game, with the situation the way it was, that’s the way it had to be.”


Browns QB Jake Delhomme missed his second day of practice on Thursday with a right ankle injury. It increased the chance that Seneca Wallace (right) will be the starting quarterback on Sunday against the Chiefs in Cleveland.

Speaking after practice, Browns coach Eric Mangini said Delhomme could start, be the backup or the inactive third quarterback. “I couldn’t tell you where it’s going to go,” Mangini told the Cleveland media. “We have today (Thursday), tomorrow and Saturday. We’ll just have to see which way it goes.”

Wallace made his first NFL start against the Chiefs back in 2006 at Arrowhead Stadium. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 198 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. The Chiefs won the game 35-28.

Overall Wallace had 14 career starts during his time in Seattle, and the Seahawks record in those games was 5-9.

Chiefs head coach Todd Haley has seen plenty of Wallace over the years while he was coaching at Dallas and Arizona.

“He hasn’t had a ton of opportunities but in those opportunities he looks like a quarterback that is a drop-back quarterback,” said Haley. “I think it’s easy to think otherwise when you get a little smaller, more athletic guy that you automatically think that he’s a movement quarterback. But he is a drop-back quarterback, I think that’s what Coach (Mike) Holmgren, when he was coaching him out in Seattle always it looked like envisioned him to be, and that’s what he did.

“He is a drop-back passer that can throw the football but he can also take off and run and hurt you from an athletic standpoint. You do have a change of pace and you have to be prepared for both so we’ve got to make sure that in practice that we do have some scrambles where we tell the quarterback to take off and run and are aware that that can happen.”


The Chiefs and Browns game will be on local television in northern Ohio. There was never any doubt about that, given the number of season ticket sales the Browns continue to rack up since returning as an expansion team.

But there are other teams hosting openers that have struggled to sell all their tickets. Last week, Tampa Bay’s opener at Raymond James Stadium against Cleveland was blacked out. This coming weekend, both the San Diego and Oakland openers will not be on local TV. The Chargers had something like 7,000 tickets available for Jacksonville earlier this week. It’s the first local blackout in San Diego since 2004. The Raiders home opener didn’t come close to selling out, and it will be blacked out in the Bay Area.

The Lions had 2,000 tickets remaining for their home opener against the Eagles and got a 24-hour extension from the league to sell those. Carolina and Cincinnati just sold enough tickets Thursday morning to lift the blackout in those cities.

The push back by the fans continues.


The pouting and actions of Philip Rivers during Monday night’s game at Arrowhead has led to some criticism of the San Diego quarterback, both nationally and in southern California. It all stems from the three delay of game penalties the Chargers offense was flagged with and his kicking of a shotgun snap on one of those whistles. Rivers was also pictured talking with great animation with some of his offensive teammates.

That any of his actions caused discussion was a stunner for Rivers.

“I’m amazed,” he told the San Diego media. “What am I supposed to say, “Hey, guys, that was a great delay of game penalty!”? The delays were all on me. I make sure my emotions don’t affect my play. It’s the way I play; it’s the way I’ve always played.”

When he kicked the football on one of those delay of game calls, it was not a reaction of emotion, but of protecting his teammates.

“I kicked the ball back to the line of scrimmage so no one would dive on it and get somebody hurt,” Rivers said. “That’s how Nick Hardwick got hurt last year (in Oakland). If it hadn’t slipped out of my hand, I would have thrown it away. Was I happy at the time? No. I won’t use the word frustrated. I was aggravated with myself – and us. It wasn’t like we spiraled out of control. Shortly after that, we went on a roll.”

One guy who watched Rivers in person was former Chargers quarterback, Hall of Famer Dan Fouts. He was doing a national radio broadcast of the game.

“This kind of thing has been going on since they first pumped air in the ball,” Fouts told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “There just so much more attention now, with all the people chatting and blogging and voicing opinions. Everybody’s a critic. If they watch a guy crossing the street there will be four tweets on how slow he was.

“There are times you go to the whip and times you go to the carrot. It’s a very emotional game, and some guys express their feelings differently than others. This isn’t new, but being on a national stage, on Monday night, fueled this. We’re so quick to criticize and anoint now. It cracks me up.”

Amen Dan Fouts.


JAGUARS – re-signed TE Ernest Wilford.

10 Responses to “Third Down Problems … Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • September 17, 2010  - Michael says:

    Bob, I read on other sites of players different teams bring in to work out. Why can’t we get the same information?

  • September 17, 2010  - Chuck says:

    A smart man might wonder “if it was a dry field on monday night what would the score have been”???? Its a shame we can’t go out and get Vincent Jackson. And I still say our O-Line is well below average.

  • September 17, 2010  - aPauled says:

    I think that Fouts missed the point on Rivers. Yes, he needed to address the delay of game penalties…but his reaction looked like a 3 year old that couldn’t have a candy bar. Peyton Manning gets after his teammates…as a leader…not as a cry baby like Rivers. That’s what people were reacting to.

    Cassel got his pass card on third down against San Diego. This week he needs to man up and make some plays or it’s going to be the start of the end of his time in KC. Not negative…just reality that it’s time to perform.

  • September 17, 2010  - Paul says:

    I think Rivers had every right to be upset at himself and his team. A little too humble in my opinion, though, of himself to say, “The delays were all on me.” Although, it’s the right thing to say in the national spotlight. His center in those situations has to know the silent counts better, and he has to perform better than he did. His receivers weren’t running their routs very well, either. Granted, our defense was pretty darn good that night I know, but their offense has to perform better. Rivers knows that, and you don’t motivate the rest of your team in the NFL by telling them after every penalty, after every poor route ran, and after every missed opportunity by saying, “Aww its okay. We’ll get ‘em next time.” You better believe that Chargers team won’t make the same mistakes come next time our Chiefs play them in their house.

  • September 17, 2010  - cupp says:

    The Chargers won 4 straight division titles and cannot sell out their home opener? What a joke.

  • September 17, 2010  - jim says:

    Chuck, apparently some of the guys on the NFL network, Baldinger being one, who have played several snaps in the league would disagree with you. They collectively complimented how our interior three played Monday night, and while I thought Brandon played really well, they didn’t even mention him. All in all, I think our line is coming together — which is should the more they play side by side.

    Additionally, I’m not so concerned with our third down stat as much as the lack of production on 1st & 2nd. Get some eatin done on 1-2, and the 3rd helpin gets way easier. We need 3rd and 2, not 3rd and 12. That will fix a whole bunch of stuff.

  • September 17, 2010  - Dave says:

    bob, any info on our third and long defensive stats? based purely off of observation and no research, my perception is that we are much better at stopping third and short situations than third and very long.

  • September 17, 2010  - dan in joplin says:

    jim, I agree w/ the line playing well. The only concern I believe is the depth mainly @ tackle! The interior will be fine. I also believe that on 3rd & 5 or shorter, we will probably see more & more run calls.

  • September 17, 2010  - aPauled says:

    I would break the O-Line play down to Run Blocking and Pass Protection. Run Blocking is generally pretty good…by the whole team WRs, TEs, FB included. Pass Protection is weak esp. at RT, C and TE.

  • September 18, 2010  - Edward says:

    How about get Charles more carries on first and second down possession. Charles has been averaging 5 plus yards a carry. He only if given opportunity on first and second down can put us in manageable 3rd downs. Most of the time in the first quarter we kept given it to Jones and he would get 1yard. If Charles is the feature back you’ll see a more productive offense.

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