Football 3rd Down Conversion

football 3rd down

A 3rd down conversion occurs when an offense successfully reaches first down line, also known as the line to gain, during their 3rd down, leading to a new set of downs for them on offense.

3rd downs are often some of the most critical moments in a game. The offense knows they need a first down, and the defense knows they cannot allow them to convert.

When an offense is faced with a 3rd down, execution becomes more crucial. 3rd down conversions are often used to determine the best offenses, but this can be misleading; the best offenses will have lower numbers of 3rd downs overall because they will have already reached the line to gain on either 1st or 2nd down.


Converting on 3rd Down

Depending on the amount of yards a team needs to get a first down, offenses will run either a pass or run play for the 1st down. When it is 3rd down and the offense needs more than three yards, they will almost always be running a passing play, because a run can be too risky. Alternatively, coaches will usually choose to run the ball on 3rd and short situations, although passing in short yardage scenarios is becoming more popular in the NFL as offenses try to trick defenses.

On 3rd down passing plays, receivers are instructed to run their routes "to the sticks," meaning they should be prepared to catch the ball at the line to gain, rather than having to run up to it.

Of course, defensive backs are alternatively taught to "play the sticks" on 3rd down so that they may prevent receivers from reaching the line to gain.

Importance of 3rd Down Conversions

3rd downs are often the most important down for both offenses and defenses because they both have the most to gain and lose. Failing to convert a 3rd down means an offense will face 4th down, and likely be forced to punt the ball back to their opponent or settle for a field goal attempt. Additionally, defenses hate giving up 3rd down conversions because they have almost completely stalled an offense's drive, but fell short at the last moment.