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Third Down Success Fueling Strong Start For Redskins

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One key to the Redskins' early season success has been their ability to move the chains on third downs while also stopping opponents in the same situation.

Perhaps no statistical category shows how different the Redskins are this year than in recent years past is their efficiency on third downs both offensively and defensively.

On offense the Redskins are fourth in the league on third down conversions (29-of-62, 47 percent) and defensively, they've allowed just 15 first downs on 48 third down attempts.

For comparisons sake the Redskins converted on just 32 percent of their third down attempts and allowed 89 first downs on third down attempts last season.

"On offense, we're making obviously protection, number one," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "Number two, we're staying in makeable — we're not having as many third-down-and-12s and 11s. We've had about 16 of them, I think, this year in four games. A lot of them were penalty related. We finally converted two third-and-longs last week, but we've been very effective on third-and-mediums, and that's good route distribution, good protection and obviously good throws."

Those to crucial third down conversions came on two different scoring drives, as Chris Thompson's 42-yard gain on a draw play helped set up Dustin Hopkins' first field goal of the day.

Then in the fourth quarter, Kirk Cousins connected with rookie wide receiver Jamison Crowder for a 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-13.

That play also put the Redskins in field goal position for Hopkins to convert.

"That's my job, is to come in on third downs, whatever the situation is and make big plays," Thompson said. "That's why they kept me around here. So I was glad I was able to make some big plays on that [first] drive and we were able to get up early and get some momentum going."

Crowder's catch, meanwhile, came with three defenders trying to stop him.

"I knew once the ball was thrown I could feel the guys around me, I knew that I had to go up and I knew that I was probably going to take the hit," Crowder said. "So I just really focused in on catching the ball and coming down with it and maintaining position."

For the defense, despite the fact the secondary has been banged up and never got the chance to be at full strength, the unit has been able to hold opposing offenses to limited yardage on first and second down, forcing them to attempt to move the chains from distance.

And on those third down plays, they've gotten some big stops.

"I think it's a combination of pass rush and coverage," Gruden said. "It's not really one thing when you're talking about a conversion on offense or a conversion on defense. It's 11 guys doing what they're supposed to do and being where they're supposed to be."

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