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Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Manning up: Short-yardage rushing mettle

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Coaches crave the ability to overpower an opponent when all parties know exactly what is coming.

You line up your guys, we'll line up our guys and let's see which side wins.

Short-yardage rushing situations provide one suitable testing ground. So far this season, the Seattle Seahawks stand tallest among NFC West teams in this area.

The charts, based on data from ESPN Stats & Information, rank teams by first-down conversion percentages on third- and fourth-down running plays with no more than 2 yards to go. Third-and-2 and fourth-and-2 are often passing situations, but teams still must account for the run.

The defensive percentages for the St. Louis Rams are troubling. Opponents have gained 109 yards while converting 10 of 13 times in these situations. Ray Rice's 53-yard run for Baltimore against the Rams came on a third-and-1 play. Green Bay's James Starks had a 15-yard run against the Rams on Sunday in a fourth-and-1 situation.

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On offense, the Cardinals aren't as bad in these situations as the stats make them appear. Alfonso Smith lost four yards on three third-and-1 carries against Seattle, failing to convert any of them while Beanie Wells sat out with a hamstring injury. Smith did convert a fourth-and-1 in that game.

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