An NFL announcer will say "3rd and long" when a team is about to start a 3rd down play and they are in the vicinity of 10 yards to go.

But what is the cutoff? What makes it 3rd and short to go? And is there such a thing as 3rd and 'mid'?

2 Answers 2


Think of it in terms of the original 10 yards to gain during that set of downs. Although losses and penalties might knock a team back, in the general case you'd expect some progress to be made.

So if the offense has moved 8 of the 10 yards already, there's not much more to go and you could get away with calling it "third and short". A run into good coverage or a very short pass could possibly extend the drive.

If instead they'd only moved 2 yards, then having to make up the remaining 8 in just one play is reasonable to describe as "third and long". An average run or short pass is likely to not make the line to gain. The team may need to try a lower-percentage play and/or the line may need to protect for longer.

I agree with Damilia's answer of "7 or more". Anything less than that doesn't feel particularly "long". Most NFL teams average between 4 and 6 yards per play.


There is nothing official but to answer yout second question, I have heard announcers say “3rd and medium.” I have also heard- in my mind Jon Gruden- say “3rd and normal” to mean when it is 2nd and more than 10- say a sack or a penalty- to get it back to 3rd and less than 10.

To answer your first question, I would say 7 or more yards. More teams are going for it on 4th and short (2 or 3) so maybe 3rds and long is becoming closer to 10 yards.

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