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Dear Norv: It's Ok to Run on 3rd and Short

Antonio Gates doesn't mind 3rd and Short run calls.
Antonio Gates doesn't mind 3rd and Short run calls.

The three of you that follow me on twitter know that I am a UCLA alum and fan. UCLA may or may not have just had a signature win tonight with their first year NFL-reject head coach. The thing that struck me big time about the new look UCLA Noel Mazzone offense, was a distinct willingness to run on 3rd and short. Running on 3rd and short is something Norv Turner does not like to do.

In 2011, the Chargers had 86 play opportunities from 3rd and less than five (for the artsy types, that's the same thing as 3rd and 4 or less). With those 86 3rd and short opportunities, they passed 63 times (73%) and ran 23 times (27%). Before we move on, you should guess which call between run vs pass had the better 1st down percentage. If you guessed run, you'd be correct. 83% of the 3rd and short run calls last year lead to first downs, while only 54% of the 3rd and short pass calls last year led to first downs. Those 3rd and short run calls enjoyed an 8.0 YPC (yards per carry) which compares favorably to a 7.1 YPA (yards per attempt) of the passing calls.

The lesson, is that every time the Chargers line up with shotgun 11 on 3rd and 3 against the Raiders Monday night; you should scream that Norv should run with an 83% chance of success vs. the coin flip pass attempt that he will call.