Going Inside Football’s Most Exciting Play

When I’m watching NFL games, every time I see an offense gain nine yards on first down I get as giddy as a school girl with a new iphone. Not because of the production of the play, but rather the possibilities the next play will bring.

2nd and 1 is without a doubt the most nightmarish play any defense will face on any given Sunday. Take both hands, grab each butt cheek and just hang on!

The offense holds all the cards on 2nd and 1, and can literally pick and choose what it wants to do with a high degree of success. It’s an opportunity to go for the end zone. It’s a play to let your quarterback become a star. And your left tackle. And receivers and tight ends. Let it rip! 999 All Go!

If there’s a breakdown somewhere, just throw the ball away. It’s the most stress-free, no-brainer situation a quarterback can have in a game! A pass interference call can be just as big and can set up an easy scoring opportunity. Or, depending on the flow of the game, keep the ball on the ground and pick up the gimme first down.

3rd and 1 situations still greatly favor the offense. Even an offense that’s struggling for consistency on most game days should be able to covert a 3rd and 1 a good percentage of the time.

Now, keep in mind that real football situations sometimes will dictate or influence decisions by the head coach or offensive coordinator depending on where the buck stops.

Do you have a comfortable lead? How much time is left on the clock? What’s the field position?

Do I have the right personnel to take the shot down the field?

2nd and 1 should be a game-changer when all is said and done and given the right situations.

Keep in mind that 2nd and 1 plays are rare. At least for the Rams, they were. The Rams ran just over 1000 plays on offense in 2012 (according to my notes) and faced only 13 2nd and 1 situations. That’s less than one time per game. Interesting.

The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons had 26. Green Bay 23. Dallas 23. Detroit 23. Houston 21.

Those are playoff offenses. They usually win big on first-down calls and convert for a high percentage on third down. They’re also among the leaders in the precious time of possession stat, averaging over 30 minutes per game, and score over 26 points per game on average.

They also tend to be more aggressive in 2nd and 1 situations. Drew Brees is going for the throat. He threw it 19 times and averaged over 8.5 yards per attempt on 2nd and 1. Tony Romo averaged 8.3 ypa on 10 passes. Aaron Rogers was aggressive but inaccurate, completing just half of his 10 attempts for a 5.4 average on 2nd and 1.

The Rams attempted five passes and completed two, averaging under 7 yards per pass attempt on 2nd and 1. They ran it seven times – excluding goal-line plays – and converted 5 times.

Each 2nd and 1 pass attempt came with perfect field position and a chance to challenge the defense with the big play. They were ahead in the count, so to speak.

  • Two plays were wiped out by pre-snap penalties.
  • One was a spike to stop the clock.
  • One was a short completion to Danny Amendola vs. Detroit.
  • Another fell incomplete to Danny vs. Minnesota.
  • There was also a catch for -3 yards vs. the Jets in the first quarter that I didn’t count because it was caught behind the line.
  • The Rams didn’t win those games.

When I look at what the Rams added this offseason, I envision a lot more opportunities for the offense to be aggressive and flipping the field in their favor more often. There will be more chances for excitement.

Think about a four-time Pro Bowl left tackle in Jake Long. Consider the more-than-capable former left tackle playing the right side in Roger Saffold.

There’s even more speed, if possible on the outside with Brian Quick, Chris Givens and hopefully Stedman Bailey. A new threat to attack the seam of the defense: free-agent pickup Jared Cook, a tight end who has the potential to function as an elite pass catcher. As for first-round pick Tavon Austin, he only has to watch tape of Amendola last year to see that he’ll have numerous chances to make plays early in this offense. The more chances, the better with him.

2nd and 1 plays are gold. They need to treated as such.

But they only seem to be as good as the guy pulling the trigger most times.

Let’s hope 2013 is one of those times.

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