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A Word on 3rd Down

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 29, 2009 – 1:05 pm

In a game with as thin a winning margin as there was in Sunday’s Vikings-49ers contest at the Metrodome, there are likely several factors that, if changed even slightly, could’ve resulted in the opposite outcome occurring.

You can’t help but point to 3rd downs as one factor from last Sunday.

The Vikings did not allow San Francisco to convert one 3rd down in the game, forcing the 49ers to go a crippling 0-11. According to Stats, Inc. (and passed along to me by Jeff Anderson of the Vikings PR department), the Vikings hadn’t held an opponent to zero 3rd down conversions since 12/6/98 against Chicago (they did it twice in 1998 – 11/8 vs. New Orleans was the other time). Even more impressive is that since the 2000 season, NFL teams have held opponents to zero 3rd-down conversions just 30 times.

The Vikings offense, meanwhile, converted 10 of 20 third-down tries against San Francisco, increasing their 3rd down conversion rate for the season to 42.2%, which is 9th best in the league.

Since the Vikings ranked just 19th in 3rd down conversion rate in 2008, I thought a quick analysis of the team’s success in that area was in order.

I can’t tell you how many times, after the amazing Brett Favre-to-Greg Lewis-TD to beat San Francisco, I’ve heard someone say “That’s why the Vikings signed Favre.” And I can’t disagree, that play is certainly an example of the magic and “never out of it” style that Favre brings to his team.

But it seems another area where Favre will help improve the Vikings is on 3rd downs. As stated above, the Vikings are already up to 9th in the NFL on 3rd downs after finishing 19th last year. A big reason behind the improvement is Favre, who has a passer rating of 99.2 and 2 TDs on 3rd down. Fittingly, Favre’s game-winning TD strike to Lewis on Sunday came on a 3rd down.

Going even deeper, and as pointed out to me by my buddy and Vikings PR maven Evan Koch, Favre’s favorite targets on 3rd down have been WR Percy Harvin and RB Chester Taylor, who have 8 third-down receptions a piece. Harvin leads the team in receiving yards with 128, and 84 of those receiving yards (72.7%) have come on 3rd down (so has 1 of his 2 TDs). Also, 88.9% of Taylor’s receiving yards this year have come on 3rd down.


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2 Responses to “A Word on 3rd Down”

  1. By Vikings Fan from Afar on Sep 29, 2009 | Reply

    Great post. Playing the Packers and their explosive offense, the key for the Vikings in this game will be ball control, third down conversions, field position, time of possession, turnover ratio, and running the football. Try to get at least 35 minutes time of possession. This will take a little bit of pressure off the defense, allowing the D to perform better. Time consuming drives are made on third downs.

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