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Looking at the Rams on third down

Third down conversions proved to be a real problem for the Rams against the Patriots, an experienced team with a proven track record of making stops when they need to. Of the 16 third down opportunities the Rams had, they converted just five of them - 31%. It was a big reason why they scored less than 20 points and, more importantly, why they couldn't seal the deal in the fourth quarter.

The Rams found themselves in third and long (more than 5 yards to go) situations on 11 of their 16 third downs (only one of those long situations was less than 7 yards), far too often against the Patriots.

Naturally, that affected the play calling. They ran the ball just twice on third down, passed 12 times and Bulger was sacked twice. The two rushing attempts came in the first quarter, on the Rams first two thrid downs. The unsuccessful rush on thirddown was followed by Pittman's successful fourth down conversion, a run off the left tackle for 4 yards. Each of those plays came on the Rams first possession of the game, one that ended with an imcomplete pass to Holt on the right side and a field goal on fourth down.

What really hurt, were the two incidents where a penalty on third down moved the Rams back further in the wrong direction. Both happened on key drives in the fourth quarter. Barron's false start moved them from 3-15 (after a sack and an incomplete pass) to 3-20, where Bulger did complete a pass to Dante Hall for 5 yards. That was their second to last possession and one of five three-and-out series. The other penalty, you'll recall, come on the Rams last drive of the game, Incognito's false start on 3rd and 10 and then the INT that ended it for all intents and purposes.

You can argue execution, play calling or whatever when it comes to the Rams 31% third down conversion rate. (I, for one, may have tried a reverse or some sneaky run on one of the third and long situations). But the real issue here, in my mind, is how often the Rams found themselves in third and long situations, where it's harder to get the first down. Having Jackson back should help, but they'll have to stop shooting themselves in the foot too, such as in the fourth quarter where they failed to convert two third downs when it really mattered.