Making Plays on 3rd Down Critical Moving Forward

Intro: In striving to get off to better starts, the Colts can point to third downs on each side of the football for the problems early in games.

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INDIANAPOLIS – There's a reason fans rise to their feet when their home defense gets ready for third-down.

The "money down" is a chance for defenses to get off the field, rest up and more importantly turn the ball back over to its offense.

Conversely, the offense views third-down as an opportunity to sustain drives that will hopefully end in points.

Over the last four weeks, the Colts haven't found the same third-down success on either side of the ball that they carried for the first half of the season.

In the Colts getting out to a 5-2 start, the offense converted 42.6 percent of third-downs where as the defense allowed just 34.7 percent of conversions.

Lately though the success hasn't been the same on those downs during the first half of games.

Colts Offensive 1st Half Drive since Bye Week

Drives

24 drives (4.8 plays per drive)

Yards Gained

377 yards (15.7 yards per drive)

3rd Down Conversion

3-of-25 (12 percent)

Points

12 (4 field goals)

Colts Defensive 1st Half Drive since Bye Week

Drives

22 drives (6.4 plays per drive)

Yards Allowed

927 yards (38.6 yards per drive)

3rd Down Conversions

15-of-27 (55.5 percent)

Points Allowed

72 points (9 TDs and 3 FGs)

Insider linebacker Jerrell Freeman knows that getting back to the success the team had during the 5-2 run begins with defensive stops.

"Getting off the field on third-down is a huge thing," Freeman said earlier this week. "Try to get that ball to the offense as many times as we can get it to them. Especially third-and-longs, we have to get off the field. Got to make an effort to do that."

On the other side of the football, the Colts offense is looking to keep drives moving while adjusting to life without Reggie Wayne.

Many times during 2013, Wayne was the "security blanket" for quarterback Andrew Luck.

Opposing defense have begun to give added attention to new No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton with Wayne not in the lineup.

In order to get off to better starts, the Colts know that making plays on third-down and getting into third-and-manageable situations is critical.

"That's the key, convert third downs and stay on the field," T.Y. Hilton said. "By us getting off the field, we're not helping our defense. They're tired. So convert third-down and we'll be alright."

Of the top five teams in third-downs on offense and defense right now in the NFL, eight of those ten are currently in the playoffs with the other two tied for a Wild Card spot.

The past two years the Colts have come up with some of their most important plays on the "money down" and getting back to that style is something the team is striving for with the final month of the season approaching.

"We just got to get back to playing football and playing better fundamentals and techniques and doing the things that we did early in the season, doing the things that we did to beat the football teams that we beat early in the season, the teams like Denver and Seattle and San Fran and those type of things," head coach Chuck Pagano said.

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