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2nd and 10 play calling

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2nd and 10 is a difficult play call. Do you run in hopes of getting 5+ yards, making for a manageable 3rd and short, or do you pass, perhaps looking for more, but risking an incompletion and a low percentage 3rd and 10?

I know where my dad stands on the issue. Every time the Eagles are in a 2nd and 10 and they run the football for a minimal gain, I get an angry text from my dad complaining about the play call. He's been doing this for about the past 2-3 years, and I began to also notice that the Eagles seem to run the ball a lot (mostly ineffectively) on 2nd and 10, leading to difficult 3rd and long situations. So I went back and looked at all the 2nd and 10 play calls since the beginning of the 2009 season. The sample size is 20 games - All 16 regular season games last year, and the first 4 this year (the San Fran game was not included, since I began my research before last Sunday).

Over that time period, the Eagles were faced with a total of (90) 2nd and 10 situations. To my complete surprise, they ran the ball only 36 times, and passed 54, for a percentage split of 60 pass/40 run, which is pretty much right on par with the Eagles' typical split.

After the jump, we'll look at the success of those 2nd and 10 run plays and pass plays.

First, let me just dump all the raw data on you:

OPPONENT RUNS YARDS PASSES YARDS





Panthers




R 8 P 3

R 17


R 5


R 7






Saints




No runs
P 6



P 11



P 11





Chiefs




No runs
P 4



P - inc 0



P 5



P 15





Bucs




R 1 P 38





Raiders




R 1 P - inc 0



P - inc 0



P -1



P - inc 0



P - inc 0





Redskins




R 2 P 20



P - int 0





Giants




R 4 P 9





Cowboys




R 4 P 11

R 17 P - inc 0

R 3






Chargers




R 7 P 11

R 11 P 17



P 12



P 9



P 28



P 15



P - INT X





Bears




No runs
P 13





Redskins




R 19 P 5

R 5 P 6



P 46



P 8





Falcons




R -3 P - inc 0

R -2


R 5






Giants




No runs
P - sack -10



P- inc 0





49ers




R 4 P 43

R -1


R 8


R 3






Broncos




R 3 P 9

R 3 P - inc 0

R 4 P - sack -6

R 3






Cowboys




R 8 P 0





Packers




No runs
P - inc 0



P - sack -9



P 6



P 12



P - sack -3





Lions




R - TD 14 P - inc 0

R 12






Jaguars




R 9 P 2

R 1 P 14

R 8 P - TD 16

R 2 P - inc 0





Redskins




R 4 P 7

R 0 P - inc 0

R 3 P 11



P 9



P - inc 0










Total 36 runs 199 54 passes 403

The data shows that runs averaged 5.53 yards per carry (seemingly a great number, but a little misleading because the defense would typically be looking for a pass). It also shows that passes averaged 7.46 yards per attempt (also OK).

However, when you look at the percentage of "successful plays," passing on 2nd and 10 was clearly the better option. By "successful plays," I'm referring to those that at least cut the distance in half (plays that went for 5+ yards). Here are the runs:

Photobucket

Note that only 44.5% of run calls went for 5+ yards, which put the offense in 3rd and long 55.5% of the time. Also noteworthy is that no runs gained 20+ yards, and only 16.7% gained enough for a first down.

And now the pass plays:

Photobucket

Note that on pass plays, 53.7% gained at least 5 yards, with 9.2% going for big plays (20+ yards), 24% going for a first down, and 20.4% leading to 3rd and short. The downside is of course the 42.7% of passes that went for less than 2 yards, were incomplete, led to sacks, or turnovers.

What this data shows is pretty much what we already know. More risk, more reward passing the ball, smaller upside, smaller risk running it. I think if Andy and Marty could, they'd pass 90% of the time on 2nd and 10, but you have to run the ball in these situations just enough to keep the defense honest.

Lots of research, nothing terribly out of the ordinary. Thanks, Dad.