Success in 3rd Quarter is Crucial


The NFL is a game of adjustments. How you react to what your opponent is doing is crucial to long-term success. Sure, Bill Walsh used to script his first 15 plays but after that it was about how to best exploit weaknesses and create positive matchups for his team.

The biggest adjustment, perhaps, comes in the third quarter of games. Both teams have had a half of football to understand what the other is doing. The third quarter is important to set the tone for the rest of the game. It’s also when the most adjustments are made since the time between quarters is short.

Using this as a basis I wanted to see how teams have done in the third quarter of games since 2007. My theory was this would be a good indicator of coaching. Teams that can’t adapt, can’t win. They’ll keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. This is the definition of insanity.

So how did my theory work out? Hit the jump to find out and to see why, as a Falcon fan, you hope this theory is not true.

I added up all the touchdowns scored in the third quarter by every team and then compared that against their win totals. Regular season and playoffs are included. The chart below uses data from 2007-2009.

Ouch. I did not expect this. The Falcons have scored fewer third quarter touchdowns since 2007 than all but one team – the St. Louis Rams.

Is this a reflection of coaching? Does Mike Mularkey struggle to adjust in the second half? Before we blame the low ranking on 2007 and Hue Jackson (only one third quarter touchdown all season), the Falcons have still performed below average the past two seasons.

The top of this list reads like a who’s-who of the NFL’s elite and while it’s painful to see the Saints at the top of the list, it’s good to know that if the Falcons improve their third quarter production, good things could follow.

The 14 teams above the league average in third quarter touchdowns have averaged 10.3 victories per season. The 18 below the league average have averaged only 6.8. That says it all.

Only two teams (Titans and Eagles) were in the bottom half of third quarters touchdowns and still managed to average 10+ wins but it was close. They just missed the league average by 0.2.

The point is this: starting strong in the third quarter is a HUGE indicator of how successful team will/can be. The Falcons have struggled to do so yet still managed to average 8 wins a season. Imagine if their offense starts clicking and they begin to take over games in the second half the way the Saints, Cardinals, Patriots and Chargers have been doing?

On a side note, this is the last time I ever want to see the Falcons associated with the Rams on any list.