Third down is the money down in the NFL. It's the pivotal point in an offense's drive where they can continue to move forward or concede to the defense and punt the ball away. The teams that can convert that key down and keep drives alive are usually among the best in football. The Falcons were one of those teams in 2012, as were some of their individual players.
Last season, the Falcons converted 45.1 percent of their third downs on offense, the second-highest percentage in the league, behind only New England's 48.7 percent. Atlanta converted 92 of their 204 third-down opportunities last year.
When you're one of the top teams in the league on third downs, it stands to reason that some of your individual players will be among the best as well. The Falcons were also one of those teams in 2012, employing three players that finished in the top 15 in the NFC in third-down catches that turned into first downs for their team.
Roddy White led the way for Atlanta, catching 25 third-down passes that were converted to first downs. That mark was good enough for fourth in the entire league and third in the NFC. White caught first downs on 79.3 percent of his catches during the season, sixth in the league among players with 50 or more catches. White's 25 catches accounted for 27 percent of Atlanta's third down conversions last year.
Behind White was Tony Gonzalez, catching 22 third-down passes for first-down conversions in 2012. That mark was tied for fourth in the NFC and ranked tied for fifth in the entire league. Gonzalez caught first downs on 69.9 percent of his catches during the season.
Julio Jones was the third member of Atlanta’s aerial assault on third down. Jones had 15 third-down catches to move the chains, tied for 15th in the NFC. He caught first downs on 70.9 percent of his catches.
Jacquizz Rodgers was fourth on the team in first-down catches, turning 32.1 percent of his catches into a new set of downs.
The Falcons were one of three teams with three players on the list of the top 15 third-down converters in the NFC. Dallas and New Orleans also had three players each that were among the conference leaders.