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Week Four (2015) Fourth Down Decisions In Review

Boldest Coach of the Week:

Mike Zimmer coached the Vikings in week 4 the way every underdog should: he gave his team the best chance to pull the upset.  Playing in Denver, Zimmer chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Vikings own 44-yard line on 4th and 1 in the first quarter.  Then, in the 4th quarter, Zimmer went for it on 4th down at the Denver 48-yard line.  Trailing by 10 with 10 minutes to go is a pretty obvious situation to go for it on 4th-and-1, but it’s one not all coaches recognize.  His aggressiveness was rewarded, as Adrian Peterson burst through the line for a 48-yard touchdown.

Overlooked Bold Decision of the Week:

It’s easy to ignore the 4th down decisions in the Falcons/Texans blowout, but even blowouts begin as close games. Atlanta began the game with a three-and-out, but gained possession following an interception at the Falcons 46-yard line.  There, Atlanta went three-and-out again, except Dan Quinn chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Houston 45-yard line.  Quinn’s bold decision was rewarded, as Devonta Freeman picked up the first down.  Atlanta scored a touchdown on the drive, and never looked back.

Bad Coaching Decision of the Week:

Get used to seeing John Fox here, folks.  Trailing 14-13 with 90 seconds left in the first half, the Bears kicked a field goal from the Oakland 1-yard line. Hindsight being 20/20, this move paid off, as Chicago wound up winning by two points.  But Chicago had all three of their timeouts, so kicking a 19-yard field goal is never the right play in this situation.

Worst Punt of the Week:

There was only one 4th quarter punt last week by a trailing team with less than five yards to go.  So the award this week goes to Jason Garrett, who chose to punt on 4th-and-2 from the Dallas 38-yard line with six minutes left in the game and the Cowboys trailing by seven points.  According to the NYT 4th Down Bot, the Cowboys’ win probability dropped from 16% to 14% with this call.

Good Coaching, Half The Time

Denver head coach Gary Kubiak faced two 4th-and-1 decisions in the second half of game against Minnesota in pretty obvious “go for it” situations.   With the ball at the Vikings 1-yard line, The Broncos ran for it on 3rd-and-1 but Ronnie Hillman was stuffed. This might cause some coaches to kick the field goal and increase the lead to six points, but the Broncos went for it and were rewarded with an easy touchdown off of play action.  Then, at the start of the 4th quarter, the Broncos punted on 4th-and-1 from midfield.  Up by 10 at the time, it’s understandable to be conservative, but that situation is a little too risk-averse for my taste.


  • dan dan fielding

    Dishonorable mention from college football:

    The Indiana Hoosiers were 21 point underdogs to Ohio State. With 3:09 to go in the first half, they chose to punt on 4th and 2 from the OSU 39 yard line. Despite OSU getting all the punt yardage back on their very first play, the Hoosiers lucked out when Ohio State missed a field goal with 0:45 left in the half. With the ball on their own 26 and 45 seconds to work with, they chose to kneel the half out. The latter decision may not be as bad, but as a 21 point underdog, you need to take those opportunities. Indiana lost by seven.

  • Richie

    Is the Fox decision that bad? Usually part of the value in going for it on the one yard line is if you fail, you pin the opponent on their one. Which means you are still likely to be the next team to score.

    But at the end of the half you lose that part of the calculation.