No Problem With Going For It On Fourth Down

Steve Spagnuolo made a move for seemingly the first time in his tenure as a head coach in which he put his neck out and could have been second guessed by going for the win on 4th and 1 on the Arizona 33 yard line, leaving the field goal team on the sideline and passing up a possible game winning 50 yard field goal.

However, as we look up the stats on 4th downs thanks to Brian Burke and his great work at Advanced NFL Stats, we can see that from the 33 yard line with only 1 yard to go, going for it is the correct option.  Hit the link for more information about his study which includes expected points and etc.

UPDATE: Here’s a direct post from Advanced NFL stats that says that the Rams running the ball twice on 3rd and 4th and 1 was the right move.


Here’s more from Advanced NFL Stats, who crunched the numbers so I didn’t have to:

Was this a good call?

WP (conversion) = 0.82, WP (fail) = 0.31, success rate = 0.74
Total WP (conversion) = 0.69

WP (good kick) = 0.69, WP (miss) = 0.30, success rate = 0.55
Total WP (FG att) = 0.59

Yes it was a very good call. If you don’t buy the 74% success rate on 4th and 1, then you’d just need better than a 55% probability of success to make the conversion attempt worthwhile. One of the most dangerous things you can do is hand a team a 3 point deficit with plenty of time to march down the field with all 4 downs at its disposal.

The rest of my thoughts are after the jump.

The other information that comes into play is that this was the end of the game and with a conversion, the Rams would have been able to run out the clock before kicking the field goal to win.  Extra incentive was there to go for the win instead kicking there and giving Arizona just under two minutes to drive on the weary Rams defense which had been destroyed by the Arizona no-huddle offense on the last drive.

The call to go for it was the right call, however, the two play calls on 3rd and 4th and one were the wrong call.  Arizona was expecting run all the way with 3 TEs, RB and FB in the Rams formation.  However, we have seen the Rams use play action and a rollout with a quick throw to a tight end out of that formation a few times.  It is possible the Rams were worried about Sam Bradford’s mobility on his high ankle sprain and the fact that pass catching tight end Lance Kendricks had left the game.

But, if you knew that you were going to go for it on 4th, the playaction should have been utilized on one of those plays.  The Cardinals were not worried about misdirection and all their defensive players flowed to the ball and made the stop.  Something, anything but the same play two plays in a row.

However, the cameras showed Josh McDaniels and head coach Steve Spagnuolo talking before the play and with that information, you knew it was going to be a seemingly less risky run.  But, the problem with this is that you are already taking a risk by going for it, so why try to mitigate that risk with a run play.  Fortune favors the bold and it never favors the Steve Spagnuolo Rams because even when they make the right decision to go for it, they make the wrong play call and do not execute.

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