Third downs are difficult to convert. The NFL as a whole had converted only 38.8 percent of third-down attempts this season entering Week 9. The best team in the NFL at converting third downs, the Rams, had converted only 49 percent of the time.
Of course, third downs are more difficult to pick up the longer they are. A third-and-3 is easier to convert than a third-and-7, which is easier than a third-and-15, and so on. Prior to Sunday, third downs with longer than 30 yards to go had been essentially impossible to convert for almost 20 years.
Prior to Sunday.
In the second quarter of their game against the sad-sack New York Giants, the Rams not only converted a third-and-33, they took it to the house for a 52-yard touchdown. Check out Robert Woods snaking his way through the defense.
How on earth do you let this turn into a touchdown? There are seven defenders between Woods and the first down line, let alone the end zone. And it's not like he has seven blockers out in front of him.
Per a series of Pro-Football-Reference searches by the intrepid Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com, Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, and Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, we soon came to realize that this was the first time a team converted a third-and-30 or longer since 1999.
That's just the way things have gone for the G-Men this year. They're 1-7, about to be 1-8, and things are not looking up.