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Chiefs Third Down Woes: Play Calling, Penalties or Poor Play?

So we all know the Kansas City Chiefs have major troubles on third down. After Sunday's game, the Chiefs are now 14/68 on third down for a nice conversion rate of 20.6%. Sunday, the Chiefs were 5/17 on third downs for a conversation rate of 29%.

But, it's not like the Chiefs get to third down and inexplicably can't convert them just because it's the third play in a series. Logically speaking, it's first and second down that's hurting us the most. Especially when 8 of those 15 third downs had the Chiefs needing 10 or more yards to go for the first. And six of those actually required 15 or more yards for the first.

After the jump, I've gone over all of the Chiefs third downs they didn't convert (12 of them) to see if we can find a pattern of poor play, bad play calling, penalties or a combo of them all.

There's lots of room for debate on this one so I'm excited to see what you all have to say.

First Quarter

3rd and 11

How we got there: Mark Bradley lost two yards on a reverse and Larry Johnson only gained one yard on second down.

Verdict: Poor play calling

3rd and 3

How we got there: Jamaal Charles had a nice run for 7 yards on first down but Matt Cassel was sacked on second down. An incomplete pass to Bradley sealed the deal and the Chiefs punted.

Verdict: Poor play

Second Quarter

3rd and 15

How we got there: Larry Johnson lost six yards on first down and then only gained one yard on second down. Cassel's incomplete short pass to Sean Ryan virtually ended the series and Ryan Succop kicked his first field goal of the game.

Verdict: Poor play calling

3rd and 17

How we got there: This drive started out great with passes of 13 and 20 yards by Cassel to Sean Ryan and Dwayne Bowe respectively. A 7-yard loss on a Cassel sack and incomplete pass to Dwayne Bowe on second down put the Chiefs in a terrible third down position again.

Verdict: Poor play

3rd and 6

How we got there: What started as a solid drive at the end of the first half wound up stalling. After starting out at their own 12-yard line, the Chiefs faced 1st and 10 on their own 44-yard line. First down was an incomplete pass. Then a 15-yard pass to Sean Ryan was negated by a Brian Waters holding penalty. On 2nd and 20, Cassel hit Bradley for 14 yards. Third and six saw Cassel throw incomplete to Mark Bradley.

Verdict: Penalty

Third Quarter

3rd and 20

How we got there: The Chiefs got the ball back to start the half and only lasted five plays. After a nice first down 14-yard gain by Sean Ryan, Cassel's short pass to LJ fell incomplete on first down. Then, Cassel was sacked for a ten yard loss and yet again, the Chiefs faced third and long.

Verdict: Poor play

3rd and 3

How we got there: The final series of one of the Chiefs longest drives ended up well - with Ryan Succop putting three points on the board. On that final series, LJ rushed for two yards before two Cassel incompletions forced a punt. You can debate the merits of a pass on 3rd and short but let's face it - Larry wasn't getting that one.

Verdict: Poor play

3rd and 5

How we got there: With the ball on their own 33-yard line, LJ rushed for five yards; Cassel threw an incomplete pass to Sean Ryan on the play Branden Albert was injured on; and Cassel threw an incomplete pass to Bowe on 3rd and five.

Verdict: Poor play

Fourth Quarter

3rd and 22

How we got there: A long, long drive by the Chiefs starting with 11 minutes left in the game ended with Ryan Succop's 53-yard field goal being blocked. The final series went down like this: poor deep pass by Cassel in the direction of Bobby Wade; a Brian Waters false start; a 3-yard Jamaal Charles run; offensive pass interference on Dwayne Bowe made 3rd and 12 3rd and 22. Cassel hit Wade for a 9-yard gain but alas, it was way too short.

Verdict: Penalties

3rd and 7

How we got there: The Chiefs final drive of regulation ended with me jumping up and down yelling "Boooooooooooooowe!!!!!!"  The final series of the ten play drive was uneventful aside from the TD. An incomplete pass to Bradley and a short gain by Charles gave the Chiefs 3rd and 7.

Verdict: Wash


3rd and 15

How we got there: Cassel's 14-yard pass to Bradley on the first play of overtime got me so jacked up but I was completely deflated when Wade Smith was called for holding on the next play. A five yard run by Cassel made it 3rd and 15 which was not converted when D. Bowe caught a 10-yard pass to make it fourth down.

Verdict: Penalties

3rd and 9

How we got there: The Chiefs got that rare second chance in overtime to score but of course, they didn't. An incomplete pass and an LJ one yard run gave the Chiefs another third and long. Sorry Todd Haley. But at this point in the game, after seeing what we saw from the running game all day long, an LJ draw on second and 10 killed us.

Verdict:  Poor play calling

So out of 12 third downs the Chiefs didn't convert, here's how I have the problems breaking down:

  • Penalties: 3
  • Poor play calling: 3
  • Poor play: 5

Thoughts on the why the Chiefs have issues with third downs? Do you feel that it's mainly one of these factors over the others? Or a combination?