During the 2007 season, the Chicago Bears struggled mightily to move the chains on third down. In fact, they finished the year ranked 29th in the NFL in that category, earning a new set of downs just 34 percent of the time.
The average for the league's 32 teams was 39.5 percent, but the Colts showed the rest of the clubs what was possible by setting a league-leading 49.3 percent mark. The Patriots finished second at 48.2 percent. The only teams to finish below the Bears in third-down conversions were the Bills (33.3), Lions (32.6) and 49ers (31.4).
Ron Turner's offense not only had problems on third down in general, but it made matters worse by finishing fourth in the league in three-and-out drives – returning to the bench after just three plays on 26.8 percent of its offensive possessions. The league average was 22.1 percent.
Here's how the Monsters of the Midway fared in various third-down situations during the season:
3rd and 1 or less
The Best: Cowboys (86.7) and Browns (85.0).The Worst: Packers (40.0) and Seahawks (42.9) – surprisingly, a pair of division winners.
3rd and 3 or less
The Best: Patriots (71.9) and Eagles (69.3).
The Worst: Bills (45.9) and 49ers (47.9).
3rd and 4-6
The Best: Colts (55.6) and Jets (55.1)
The Worst: Falcons (28.3) and Chargers (30.4).
3rd and 7 or more
The Best: Jaguars (39.0) and Packers (37.4).The Worst: Chiefs (17.1) and Texans (18.1).
There were substantial differences between Chicago's trio of signal-callers with regard to their third-down success. Brian Griese – he's now back with the Buccaneers – was the best performer, completing 45 of 69 passes (65.2 percent) while posting a passer rating of 86.3 on third down. By contrast, Rex Grossman only completed 25 of 61 passes (41.0 percent) for a passer rating of 52.1.
While he didn't get many chances in 2007, Kyle Orton completed 42.3 percent of his 26 attempts and posted a 56.4 passer rating – both marks better than the more experienced Grossman. He also didn't take a sack on any of his third-down plays, while Griese was dropped seven times and Grossman went down 12 times.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.
Stats Analysis: 3rd-Down Offense
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