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Third-and-short belongs to the Miami Dolphins

This entire season you've heard coach Tony Sparano took about the need to get "chunk yardage," because the Dolphins want, indeed, need more big plays.

But you've not heard him complain too much about short yardage.

Why?

Because the Dolphins so far this year are the NFL's best short-yardage team and because Ronnie Brown is one of the NFL's most accomplished short-yardage backs.

According to stats compiled by the NFL, the Dolphins have the league's highest third-down conversion percentage when there are 2 or fewer yards to go for a first down. The Dolphins have faced 20 such situations this year and converted 17 times. (Getting out the trusty Salguero protractor and figuring out the sine and cosine here and, voila, that's an 85 percent conversion rate.)

The next best team in similar situations is Indianapolis, which has converted 80 percent of those third-and-short situations.

TEAM

ATTEMPTS

CONVERSIONS

PERCENTAGE

Miami Dolphins

20

17

85.0

Indianapolis Colts

15

12

80.0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

10

8

80.0

Minnesota Vikings

19

15

78.9

Green Bay Packers

8

6

75.0

It stands to reason that the Dolphins would be good at picking up the tough yards on the money down if they have tough people up front. And they do. Miami's $156 million offensive line is returning good dividends on the team's investment in this category.

But Brown also has a lot to do with the success.

Going back to the 2000 season, Brown is the third-best third-and-two or fewer RB in the NFL. And he's in pretty impressive company, as the chart confirms.

PLAYER/TEAM

ATTEMPTS

CONVERSIONS

PERCENTAGE

Joseph Addai, Colts

53

42

79.2

Adrian Peterson, Vikings

53

41

77.8

Ronnie Brown, Dolphins

53

40

75.5

Larry Johnson, Chiefs

75

56

74.7

Brad Hoover, Panthers

35

25

71.4

So what does this all mean?

Basically these facts are important for an offense hoping to stay on the field and control the ball and the clock. You don't win the third-and-short situations, you don't win too many games unless you have a dynamic and explosive offense.

And these statistics are of particular importance this week because, with the Saints game Sunday, one way Miami can win the game is to shorten the game by keeping the football. If the Dolphins have the ball, the Saints don't.

If the Dolphins extend drives by successfully converting third-and-short, they keep the ball.

Great how that works, isn't it?

[THURSDAY PRACTICE UPDATE: As you might have noticed over there <--- on the twitter feed, I've tweeted that Matt Roth, fresh off his first day of practice Wednesday, is sitting out practice today. He was at practice but his left ankle was taped and he was limping. Guess there is now zero doubt about whether he plays Sunday or not.]

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