Arizona Cardinals And Running The Ball On Third Down

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04: Runningback Beanie Wells #26 rushes the football against the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Cowboys 19-13 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, we posted an article noting the playcalling tendencies of the Arizona Cardinals on first down, especially under Ken Whisenhunt. Since khodder brought up some other stats, I thought we should look at some other stats and compare them with the rest of the division.

Let's look at some playcalling numbers on third down.

The Cardinals had 205 third down plays. The San Francisco 49ers had 222, the Seattle Seahawks 228 and the St. Louis Rams 228.

Arizona converted on 67 of those plays (32.7 percent). SF did so on 66 (29.7 percent). Seattle? 78 plays for 34.2 percent. The Rams converted 64 plays for 28 percent.

Overall that is pretty dreadful. What surprises me is the running game on third down. The Cards only ran the ball 26 times on third down. SF rushed 57 times, Seattle 40 and St. Louis 48.

Breaking it down even more, Arizona never even attempted a running play on any third down play between five and nine yards. 19 of their 26 running plays were with one yard to go. In fact, Arizona only called two running plays on third down and more than four yards (once on thrid and 10 and once on third and more than 10.)

The rest of the division? There is much more balance in their attempts. San Fran ran the ball 24 (of their 57) with more than four yards to go. Seattle did so 20 of their 40 and St. Louis 25 of their 48.

Now, one reason why the Cardinals liked to pass the ball on third down was because of effectiveness. On third and one, they ran the ball 19 times out of a possible 26 plays. They got the first down only 10 of those plays.

The rest of the division? On third and one, SF ran 15 of 19 plays and converted on 10 of those 15 rushes. Seattle ran 13 of 18 times and converted on nine. The Rams ran the ball 14 of 20 times in third and one, and they converted on eight of those attempts.

Aside from the inability to get one yard for the first down, I notice a huge lack in the use of the draw play or any running play on third down with many yards to go as a tool for field position. I don't know how many times I have seen teams on third and long simply go with the draw to gain at least a few yards before punting away the ball, attempting to improve field position at least a little bit.

The thing to consider -- how many of these third down plays (and more than four) were when the team was down in the second half.

For next year, assuming a healthy Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, how much will this change? How much should this change?

They had the most opportunities with third and one, but ran the ball less than anyone else in the division (percentage-wise). They also were the least successful team at getting first downs with one yard to go while running the ball. Granted, considering the running backs in the division, you could argue that Beanie Wells is the least physical, but that is deceiving as he IS physical. It's just that between Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Steven Jackson, you have a VERY physical group of backs.

What are your observations? What else can we get from this data? Use the comments to discuss it.

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