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Mailbag: Why Are Opponents Converting Long Third Downs?

Posted Dec 4, 2012

Living in Scotland, I only get to see between five to seven games a season live. Why do we seem to give up a lot of big plays on third down?
Nick: That stuff usually starts with the pass rush. As Anthony Spencer has played much better this year, we’re starting to see a small decline from DeMarcus Ware, especially here of late. He’s still one of the best defensive players in football, but the Cowboys haven’t had a steady rush this year. On third and long, you’re going to see more big plays if you can’t get to the quarterback.
Rowan: A lot of times the defense decides to only rush three, and the pass rush hasn’t been able to affect the quarterback much. On the first drive alone Sunday, rookie quarterback Nick Foles converted first downs on a third-and-12 and a third-and-10. Until the pass rush can be more effective, third and longs won’t be sure stops.
It seems to me Rob Ryan hasn't been running a lot of press coverage. I thought Brandon Carr was great in Kansas City when in press coverage. Why is this not utilized more often?

Nick: You’re right. We all thought we’d see more press with those guys, especially Carr. The injuries and inexperience at safety might have something to do with that, too. When you press, you’re more susceptible to the deep ball. Not having experienced safeties could cause problems if you’re beat off the line. So I would think that might be a factor, but I really did assume we’d see more press from Carr and Claiborne.  
Rowan: Given Carr’s size and ability to play physically, pressing more seems to be the best option. Some deep threat receivers have been able to get by Carr at times, including Jeremy Maclin, though Foles failed to hit him deep once. Carr’s forte isn’t his speed, and with a talent for jamming receivers, playing press more often would make sense.
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