First Down Run Stats May Not Be What You Think

October 22nd, 2022

Bucs OC Byron Leftwich.

At first, Joe thought this was like seeing Julio Jones on a football field. You know, a mirage?

But upon further study, it appears to be true.

A big thing fans (and Joe) harp on Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich about is his desire to run on first down (often running to nowhere). Or at least, that is the perception.

It’s a wrong perception.

Per, a nice free stats site, only the Rams throw the ball on first down more than the Bucs. Joe couldn’t believe it. But it appears to be true. BSPN’s stats site confirms the TeamRankings data. The Bucs are very much a pass-first team on first down.

The Bucs run the ball only 21.95 percent of the time on the first down, just behind the Rams (20.87 percent).

In total, per BSPN, only three teams have fewer rushing attempts on first down than the Bucs (27): the Titans (26), Texans (26) and Rams (24).

Given that the Bucs are the worst rushing team in the NFL and all the weapons at skill positions in the passing game, Joe would hope the Bucs would hardly ever run on first down until they prove adept at it.

41 Responses to “First Down Run Stats May Not Be What You Think”

  1. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Stats are for losers, but they usually do not lie.
    I think as fans we all want Brady to throw the ball, because that is our identity.
    This desire causes us to perceive we run the ball on first down too often.

  2. Listnfrmafar Says:

    That’s because later in games they have to go full no huddle pass mode in efforts to win. I would love to see those stats broken down by half or quarter. Plus there is running and effective running. What’s the stat for yards gained per team on running on 1st down?


  3. Redeemer Says:

    Misleading. The bucs have run 54 times of first down, averaging 3.1 yards per play. The EPA when they run on first down is dead last in the league. When they throw on first down EPA is 6th overall. When facing 6 or more yards on third down, they have a 28% conversation rate.
    It isn’t about how much they pass on first down, it’s the abject failure when they run on first down.

  4. Darin Says:

    It’s not the down they run on that’s the problem. It’s when they run the other team knows its coming. Need to change up the formations and run more play action. Spread the field. Try to actually outsmart the other team for once

  5. Kentucky Buc Says:

    Listn is right. Playing from behind skews the stat beyond recognition. First parts of games Bucs run on first downs a lot . That doesn’t bother me as much as running on play action opurtunities. 2nd and short. And no Brady can’t change the play most times because they’re running out of heavy personnel limiting audibles and telegraphing the play call.

  6. Goatfarmer Says:

    The brain dead boob will figure out a way to make the offense even worse.

  7. Chuckstutz Says:

    Redeemer nailed it. Also I would wager we have fewer 1st down attempts than the others,evidenced by time of possession. I would like to guess we have more three and outs than most other teams.

  8. Whoolio? Says:

    The issue isn’t the amount of runs on first down. It’s the lack of creativity and variety of the runs. Not to mention the RBs aren’t exactly helping the situation. Nothing to the outside, constant runs to the weak side of our line, not enough play action on 1st down to set up the run, and poor vision and patience by the running backs to find the holes when they’re there.

  9. Redeemer Says:

    Chuck, they rank 22 in 3rd down efficiency. Couldn’t find the three and out numbers.

  10. BucU Says:

    God help Leftwich if we struggle against this Panthers team tmorro.

  11. adam from ny Says:

    julio jones spotted in aisle 8 of publix…

    holding a 6 pack and on his celly telling someone to meet him down by the school yard…

    he mentioned cd3 can join the party but he has to byob

  12. Infomeplease Says:

    I would like the Bucs to throw more in the red zone!! Especially when it is within the 5 yard line!! Those stopped dead in your track runs are killing this team!! LFG!!!

  13. D-Rok Says:

    This article got me thinking: How many types of run plays have the Bucs used this year? It sure seems to this fan that we only use about 10 different types of run plays. I mean, I’ve seen a few, but how many jet sweeps? Counters? Treys? Iso’s? FB leads? Sweeps?

    Sure seems like we only use a handful of types of run plays, which by itself could lead to predictability and the defense knowing what’s coming at ’em. It would be interesting to see that breakdown.

  14. Listnfrmafar Says:

    DRok, that’s 6 more than I’ve seen.

  15. Bucs since 76 Says:

    I don’t know how many times we run on 1st down after a kickoff into the end zone to start the game. It seems like every time, which ends leading to a 3rd and long. That ends up being a punt.

  16. HC Grover Says:

    Exowich he is a fool. Get him out along with his boss. We better win Sunday ot throw him in the bay.

  17. MadMax Says:

    Yeah thats a deer in the headlight stare! I cant believe the talent we’re wasting with this clown.

    BTW, that Oregon qb, Bo Nix is very impressive. If these two clowns screw us to the point we’re picking top 10-15, I’d take him in a heartbeat.

  18. Rod Munch Says:

    That’s because of the KC game, where they only ran, what 3 times? They were down big very early and had to throw – which, by the way, worked.

  19. captivajim Says:

    thank you- REDEEMER

  20. Bucswin Says:

    Maybe should compare the success rate of those first down runs. Does it look so bad because they are going nowhere?

  21. tampabayallday Says:

    calling runs are not bad, calling runs when the defense is expecting it is BAD.

  22. D-Rok Says:


    Watching the Ducks destroy the Bruins right now. Not usually a college football type of guy, but I was bored since the wife is out shopping. Nix looks very good.

  23. MadMax Says:

    Yes Sir Drok, im always watching for prospects

  24. Defense Rules Says:

    Redeemer … Interesting 1st down stats, but I suspect that they’d vary tremendously for individual games. For instance, I just looked at 2 games: the Dallas game & the Chiefs game. The picture for those 2 games is radically different, even though the players were the pretty much the same (same OLine, same RBs, same QB, etc).

    In the Dallas game, Bucs ran 17 times on 1st down, plus 1 kneeldown, for 93 yards rushing … 5.5 yards per rush. Brady passed 10 times on 1st down; 7 were complete for 116 yards … 11.6 yards per play and 16.6 yards per completion. Dallas currently has the #3 ranked defense, BUT the #23 ranked offense. I’d say we were doing something right in that game (plus we won the game 19-3).

    In the Chiefs game, Bucs ran 4 times on 1st down for MINUS 2 yards rushing … MINUS 0.5 yards per rush. Brady passed 25 times on 1st down; 17 were complete for 169 yards … 6.8 yards per play and 10.0 yards per completion. Chiefs currently have the #24 ranked defense, BUT … the #1 ranked offense. I’d say something went drastically wrong in that game (besides the fact that we lost it 41-31).

    Two games against 2 quality opponents. In the Dallas game, our defense performed well against their meh offense, but our offense performed just OK against their quality defense. In the Chiefs game, our defense got whooped by their top-ranked offense, and our offense had their best game of the year (points-wise) against their meh defense.

    Beyond that, it’s hard to tell much about 1st down run vs pass effectiveness in those 2 games since the 1st down run-pass ratios were so radically different (64.3% run-pass in Dallas game versus 13.8% run-pass in Chiefs game).

  25. Defense Rules Says:

    Whoolio … ‘The issue isn’t the amount of runs on first down. It’s the lack of creativity and variety of the runs.’

    Agree totally Whoolio. As you look at the play-by-plays for each game, it’s not hard to see an OC who says ‘It worked once so let’s do it again & again’ (ie, Dallas game) OR ‘That didn’t work so let’s abandon it’ (ie, Chiefs game). Problem is that abandoning the run on 1st down (or any down for that matter) gives the opposing defense the opportunity to tee-off on Brady once they figure out what you’re up to. That’s a key place where the PREDICTABILITY dilemma comes into play IMO.

  26. D-Rok Says:

    Great stuff, DR. Now can you list what run play was called? I don’t have access to All-22, but I wish I did. Where can a “casual” fan like me find All-22 to review? I would love that.

  27. D-Rok Says:

    And yes, I’m pretty sure All-22 film is only available to teams…but man, that film would be so cool to see.

  28. buxxWun Says:

    got kicked off . truth hurts. in closing since I’m being monitored……play calling suxx

  29. bucs4life Says:

    Hey Joe, it’s noteworthy: look at 1) Last 1; 2) Home; 3) Away. We run the ball on 1st down FAR MORE when Away than when at home. We also throw FAR LESS deep/medium passes when Away.

    The bottom line here is not that we don’t run a lot on 1st down. It’s that we play very aggressive at Home (13% of 1st down run pct) and VERY, VERY conservative Away. Those at the top of the charts are all pis$ poor offenses.

  30. bucs4life Says:

    Rod Munch Says:
    October 22nd, 2022 at 5:14 pm
    That’s because of the KC game, where they only ran, what 3 times? They were down big very early and had to throw – which, by the way, worked.

    Good observation. We ran the ball a lot less on first down because our offense struggled a lot in many games and we had to fight back. But that was mostly at home, which drove the meager 13% rate. Last week was another story. We trailed and stalled many drives, but we kept not only running, but also running with a lack of creativity and were very predictable.

  31. D-Rok Says:

    Look at all us fans, figuring all this stuff out. LOL! You guys are awesome on this site, save for a few very negative/pessimistic “fans.”

  32. Defense Rules Says:

    Rod … Looks to me like Brady throws for about his average on 1st down (ie, in those 2 games he averaged 69% completions, which is close to the 67% that he’s averaging over 6 games.

    What’s a little eye-opening though is his average yards per completion when he throws on 1st down … 11.9 yds/completion for those 2 games versus his 10.0 yds/completion thus far over the season. A couple yards may not seem like much, but on 1st down it’s huge.

    Still, Bucs need to achieve a better ‘balance’ between the run and the pass if we expect to keep defenses from teeing off on Brady. He’s being rushed too often, and it’s costing us the deep ball (explosive plays).

  33. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:

    This stat does not reflect game script. Bucs have been forced into hurry up and catch up situations that have skewed the stats. Ironically, this is when our offense has performed best: when we completely abandon 1st down runs. Another Bucs site looked at plays run in neutral game scripts, and we are running the ball on approx 45% of first downs, which is top 5 in the league. Also most of the run plays are HB dive or run inside to the left…. And these plays are woefully ineffective. Predictable, uncreative, counterintuitive… Byron has always been a bad play caller but now without Gronk and elite OL it’s a disaster.

  34. Defense Rules Says:

    D-Rok … There are a number of excellent sites that a still free (Pro-Football-Reference is my personal favorite, followed by NFL’s website, The Football Database & of course Spotrac for salary CAP info. Unfortunately more & more seem to be charging for their info & I’ve got other things to spend my money on, as most people do.

  35. Redeemer Says:

    Defense, I’m sure some games have skewed the numbers. It’s a six game sample. They dominated in the Dallas game, and were actually pulling guards. In the Chiefs game, they basically abandoned the run before halftime out of necessity. I agree with all of you about the unimaginative run calls. Unless you have a massive size advantage up front, you can’t just run up the middle. D-Rok is right about the lack of inside traps, and counter runs. Opposing defenses are simply shooting gaps and blowing us up. The GB game is a great example. They didn’t fear being out of position. Poor coaching, bad play calling.

  36. Redeemer Says:

    Defense, agreed. PFR, and football data base are my favorites. PFF makes you pay for anything other than the basics. I hate how they charge for most of the advanced metrics. Bleacher Report drops a lot of advanced numbers through individual articles.

  37. Defense Rules Says:

    Redeemer … I think that the past 2 years spoiled Byron in that he had the horses to just blow holes in opposing defenses. Losing Marpet was a blow, but losing Jensen ha had an even bigger impact. When we started the season, I fully expected to see Stinnie at LG & of course Jensen at C. I don’t think that BL has been able to adjust to losing both to injury & having to sub in 2 rookies.

    It’s obviously impacting Tom Brady. His completion percentage is the same as it was in 2021, but his average yards/completion is down from 11.0 YPC in 2021 to 10.0 YPC now. Same with his other stats. His yards/attempt are down from 7.4 YPA to 6.7 YPA. More significantly, his TD% is down from 6.0 last season to 3.2 this season. That’s a HUUUGE drop, but not surprising based on what we’re all seeing.

  38. TB12 FOR PREZ Says:

    Its funny… with few exceptions the posters in this specific topic could easily put together a game plan as poor as Leftwich. No really, with no NFL or coaching experience, just get together and CRITICALLY ANALYZE and not do any worse than Leftwich. I would say we would likely do better, because we would all use hurry up more (Brady is the best play caller they have by 100000000) and play action and motion. Also probably not run up Goedekes bum all day for -10 yards. That is the worst insult I can give Leftwich. He is paid millions to do an abysmal job and a handful of fans with 2 braincells could do at least as good as him on a weeks notice. Shameful… Also we should do that and split his salary this year…

  39. Redeemer Says:

    TB 12 FOR PREZ, another thing. Where is all the play action passing? It’s a misnomer that you need to establish the run for it to work. The numbers don’t say so. Defenses are just as likely to bite, even if you can’t run very well. Attempts and YPC don’t matter. Brady is the best play action passer in league history. I maybe wrong, but it doesn’t look like they do it enough. Never made it past two years as a walk on for a D3 school. If it’s obvious to a dope like me, can’t see why seasoned NFL coaches can’t see it.

  40. TB12 FOR PREZ Says:

    Hey Redeemer… Totally agree. Brady was always known (and still is when utilized) the best play action passer in history. Also (though I don’t have numbers to back it up specifically, I do have 40+ years of watching football and all of Brady’s games) he is the best no huddle QB of all time. Also motion is a simple and incredibly effective way to set up at least 20 different/alternate plays a game if done well. Im not sure (I actually mean this) that Leftwich calls more than 20 different plays a game. He seems to think that every defense is the same concept and has the exact same players so he will approach it 100% the same. Also, Joe is dead wrong over and over again about the Lombardi thing. Brady DOES EMPHATICALLY need a Julian Edelman/Welker/Amendola type for this team to make it to the top. Gronk is one of my 4 favorite players of all time, but they were able to win more with Edelman available than with Gronk available. May seem crazy but I was there (not in person Im too poor for that nonsense) watching every game, every week every year. Without an Edelman they struggled to make it to the top, no matter how amazing Gronk is. And he is the greatest TE ever in my opinion. Godwin started becoming that for real last year, but sadly he is a pale shadow of what he was. And since they suck right now (ie Leftwich sucks) they cant rest him because they will need every win they can get.

  41. MadMax Says:

    And on short yardage goal line situations, the answer is simple, Big V!

    And I dont mean him blocking, I mean GIVE HIM THE DANG BALL!