A tale of two fourth downs

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2017 – 3:26 pm

Bruce Arians came out Sunday after his team beat the Jaguars and, during his opening comments, was blunt.

“Yes, I thought about going for it on fourth down,” Arians said. “It was real hard not to.”

It brought a smile to many listening. The week before, the Cardinals had tried to convert a fourth-and-1 with 6:33 left when losing to the Texans by three. Adrian Peterson was stuffed for a loss, the Texans ran for a touchdown on the next play, and that was that. It led to Arians taking the blame after the game for the call, and then reversing field the next day.

(There is a fascinating article about going for it on fourth down from the New York Times back in 2014. While critical situations have to be taken into account — like the ones Arians faced — that article says a team should always go for it on fourth-and-1 starting at a team’s own 9-yard line.)

A week later, a lesson apparently had been learned.

Against the Jaguars, there was 1:21 left in a tie game, and the ball was at the 50. Not converting there would have led to a very short field to get in field-goal range for the Jags, which would have been a disaster. Peterson ran the ball much better against Jacksonville, and the blocking was much better. But Arians wasn’t drawn in, and the Cardinals still won in regulation.

“Blaine (Gabbert) tried to talk me into it, and I just kept looking to see if it was going to be six inches or a yard,” Arians said the day after. “We knew we’d get the ball back, and I’m really pissed off because we didn’t line up properly on that one play; it cost us one of our timeouts, or we’d have two timeouts. But, we knew we were going to get the ball back if they threw it (on the possession after the punt), and they did.”

A couple of sideline passes later, Phil Dawson kicked a 57-yard field goal, and the fourth-down choice this time around paid off.

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23 Responses to “A tale of two fourth downs”

  1. By Dr. G. on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    A tale from BA – – comparing apples & carburetors…BA was 50%…wrong once, right once. Lose one, win one. Study all the consequences and considerations before the season starts…clock, field position, score, tempo, et àl… Just detailed standard strategy already made in the class rooms so you need not panic when faced with logical issue. Hunches are not good in the NFL…everyone is good.

  2. By Dr. G. on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    Herm Edwards interviewing ASU! I almost misread that as the Cardinals. A better man they will not find. He could bring in KWarner as his OC. Gonna take some doing to remove him from the analyst job maybe. He’s good at all phases of the game…and excellent history. I’m all in for him…

  3. By Corgon on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    The first problem is it was unnecessary. Say what you want coach, you should have trusted the D to get the ball back. It was a high risk, not that high reward call.
    The second problem is the playcall wasn’t helluva, it was dumb. Period. They stopped the runs there all day long. It’s cool to try this for the 15th time at 1st down in the opponent’s RZ, but in this case….QB sneak bro. Worked all the time this year.
    The third problem is that could be a win. Of course not surely, but before that there was a chance. It would be nice to have a 6-5 now.
    The fourth and biggest problem is: Don’t take it back. Not cool. Accountability is important as I heard it somewhere….not cool.

    By the way, there was two short throws (they killed it all day) after the two minute warning when we had 2nd and 3, and when we were succesfull in the ground game…that was at least surprising

  4. By andystandsup on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    Just to be direct – I think Arians had the correct call in both of his last two 4th down decisions.

    But that NYT article is baloney at best. Time, field position, play call, timeouts, field conditions, MOMENTUM, player availability, defense etc… that has to be considered into a fourth down decision. Percentages say you lose a 4th and 1 at your own 10, the other team scores more likely than if you punt. (And the author dismisses P/K in my mind – today’s kickers can bail a team more than what he’s giving credit.)

    Cards are 22nd in YPP and actually 27th since Palmer went down. Arians went with predictable I formation/Peterson between tackle play that has been hit or miss. And with the line stacked, basically knowing the play…it was a whiff.

    Interestingly enough though, according to the Times article, team should have gone for it versus Jaguars – which I think contradicts your point about the decision.

  5. By joe holst on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    i thought they had time to run 1 more play at the 6 seconds mark but chose to go with the FG.

  6. By Scott H on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    I still will NOT fault BA for his call to go for it on 4th down against Houston. Seriously? With LESS than a yard needed for a first down? And you can’t tell your O-line and a RB like Adrian Peterson to earn their money and make it happen??? No. That was NOT on the coach for making a bad call. There comes a point where your players need to make a play. And that was it. Our defense collapsing on the very next play certainly made it seem all the worse. But….hey, they get paid to make plays, too.

    On Sunday, I thought punting was the right call. And funny thing…..after that call, the players made plays and it worked out for us. It’s not super natural.

  7. By Scott H on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    In other news…..well, looks like it has now come full circle in New York. 13 years ago, Kurt Warner was benched so the Eli Manning era could begin. Now, 13 years later, it is Eli Manning being benched for what appears to be the end of the Eli Manning era.

    And in a very classy move by Eli, he is basically channeling Warner by making the same basic response, which is if you’re going to let these other guys play, then let them play. Let’s not make it about me and keeping my streak of consecutive starts alive. That only hurts the team and it cheapens the streak.

    Good for you, Eli. You da man. Way to keep it classy.

  8. By georgiebird on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    The 4th down call is a crap-shoot (assuming a team runs a decent play) for a lot of teams-you win some and you lose some. In a lot of cases, I can’t blame BA for going on 4th down and here’s why.
    The Cards have probably one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Over the past two weeks, the Cards defense has faced two of the worst QBs in the league-and both QBs have done pretty well.
    The Cards are playing a 3-4 defense when it makes no sense personnel wise. We have one linebacker -a guy who shows up big when he’s not being blocked and then disappears when he gets targeted (I wonder about the weight loss). The other three LBs are way below average.
    And then we play with one CB who does well on coverage but can’t make a tackle and the other CB who gives up a lot of yardage.
    There is no one to play the NT position- although Pierre might become that guy who needs a double team.
    All in all, I would rather go for it on 4th down than leave the game to our defense especially when we’re playing a team with an above average QB.
    Let’s face it, BA’s 4th down decision turned out to be a good move only because Bortles and Marrone teamed up make the biggest bonehead play in regulation time.

  9. By Patrick on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    Making the right decision when the game on the line 50% of the time gets you to 8-8.

    Reminds me of….

    “I love it when nobody says that you will have a chance to win, There is an 11-3 team, and a team that is always 8-8. You figure it out.”

    BA has figured out how to be the 8-8 team. (Or 7-8-1).

  10. By Patrick on Nov 28, 2017 | Reply

    … And just for the record, I would not waive Gresham.

    I would try to trade him in the off season for an expired Burger King coupon.

    I think we would have to eat part of the signing bonus, but JTDG can figure that part out.

  11. By CARDS62 on Nov 29, 2017 | Reply

    I watched the interview and it brought a smile to my face.
    I did like our coaching this game from decision after winning the coin toss to punting at midfield to using the tight ends more, to running outside more, more passes on first down, and more protection for QB, and our defensive game plan.
    This was great for a team like the Jags.

    Now the Rams come to town and they really embarrassed us in London. This will be a great test to see how our players and coaches respond, and also to get a great look at Gabbert’s mobility. Gabbert does have to protect the ball more in the pocket and when he runs the ball. I do hope we run him and he is smart and gets down. We have to get more out of our WRs this game. We have all seen smoke take over a game, and I promise you guys I was at the Colts game and JJ Nelson was the best player on the field that day. I just do not know what is going on with their games right now. Health or motivation or both is all I can figure out.

    Rams have lots of weapons and we do not have much of a DL and too many WRs are getting past our safeties so I will worry about the defense and Blaine Gabbert’s health this week as the Rams are always knocking out our QBs.

    JTDG thanks for the stats on special teams, but we did not need them to know we have been god awful under Famous Amos Jones. The eye test says it all and we as Cardinal Fans do not even think about us blocking a punt, or faking a punt and making a big play or returning a kick for a TD anymore we just pray they do not kill us.

    JTDG did you notice H. Reddick during the Jags game and how did he look to you? Was he doing a lot of pass coverage? I watched on TV and did not notice him even once. Just saw a lot of 55 and 57 during the game.

    Scott H couple of other young guys or new guys that seem to be playing better are Josh Bynes and Olsen Pierre.

    Mr. Urban I notice that we cut Harlan Miller and we did not need to as we have 52 on the active roster. Can you shed some light on why he was cut or is better to leave it in house.

    Thank you again Mr Urban for all you do for us and to the fans posting. I have been on the board posting for years and I think this has been our best year for discussing and debating our Cardinals.

    GO Cards beat those Rams!

  12. By Darren Urban on Nov 29, 2017 | Reply

    Cards 62 —

    RE: Miller

    They needed a spot, and Miller is at the bottom of the roster. I expect them to promote RB Bronson Hill with Kerwynn ailing.

  13. By JTDG on Nov 29, 2017 | Reply


    Reddick was playing as olb in passing situations. As one poster said a few weeks ago, he only has speed off the edge. Once that is taken away, he is not strong enough to bull rush. He should spend time with Freeney and learn his spin move.

    But truth is, I agree with Darren that he should be rotating with Dansby as an ILB. Dansby is definitely at the end of his career. If Reddick has any chance to avoid the dreaded “bust” label, he will need to learn to play inside.

    As for special teams stats, what I was showing is in 2013 and 14, the cards were in the top 1/3rd of the league. But in 15 and 16, they became horrible. Same coach for all 4 years. My question was why did it go down hill?

  14. By JTDG on Nov 29, 2017 | Reply


    Again, Gresham’s cap hit in 2018 is 7.25 but if released is at 9.25.

    If traded, his salary would go to the new team.
    Only the signing bonus would hit the cards.

    His signing bonus still to be counted is 5.25 million.

    So , if traded, he would save the cards 2 million in cap space.

    Question is, who trades for him and takes on his salary?

    So trading him

  15. By georgiebird on Nov 29, 2017 | Reply

    Would it be possible to combine the speedy Reddick with the powerful Markus Golden to come up with one real good LB ?

  16. By JTDG on Nov 29, 2017 | Reply


    I am sure they could mash it up in a lab and create a baby from their DNA, but we would have to wait 22 years till he was ready.

    But if we could do that, why not make a QB?

    The arm of Elway, the quick release of Marino, the speed of Vick, the ability to read a defense like Montana, the quick decision of Warner and the ability to extend plays and scramble ability of Big Ben and Russell Wilson.

    Now that would be worth waiting for.

  17. By CARDS62 on Nov 29, 2017 | Reply

    JTDG and all others – Would you have resigned Gresham at this salary.

    I do not understand the Gresham extension for this kind of money at all. He was not catching very many passes or making plays and the way we have been using tight ends it just did not make sense. I could have seen extending him at the time but not for this money. Maybe they did it to make Carson happy, but I would not have resigned him at this money.

    I understand resigning Carson but at these prices?????? Did Carson demand this type of money? I think he is like the highest or 2nd highest paid player for 2017.

    I understand the Honey Badger extension, but there was no reason to do it during the season. It could have waited for the offseason and as we all know the Honey Badger suffered his second ACL during the Philadelphia game.

    These contracts are the ones to me that seem to be hampering us the most at this time. Its cold sometimes, but NFL only give teams so much they are allowed to spend and to challenge for championships you really have to get the salaries correct. This is the beauty of having a young QB on a rookie salary deal if you can identify the right one.

  18. By Scott H on Nov 30, 2017 | Reply

    JTDG –

    Take Vick out of that list and I’d be happy with just ONE of those guys. Would be even happier if this team could FIND one of those guys in the draft.

    Knowing that several veteran QB’s are going to / MAY be available this off-season (Manning, Alex Smith, maybe even Brees ), I am already cringing at the thought of this organization going that route yet again. And I can only hope they won’t.

    Carry Gabbert into 2018 and DRAFT a QB that you believe can be your Russell Wilson or Carson Wentz. Get off this track of trying to catch lightning in a bottle with the veteran you think might have a year or two left.

  19. By georgiebird on Nov 30, 2017 | Reply

    you forgot one trait- and the durability of Eli Manning. Neil Lomax would buy into this last trait.

  20. By Scott H on Nov 30, 2017 | Reply

    Eli Manning HAS definitely been durable, that is for damn sure. And it’s so hard to believe given he is hardly a physical specimen. But damned if he wasn’t durable. It ain’t like he didn’t take some hits, either.

  21. By JTDG on Nov 30, 2017 | Reply


    Would I have signed Gresham to that huge contract? Of course not.

    I believed Niklas would have a breakout season and would have added jake butt in the draft in the 4th. (Even with Butt injured). And then added a much cheaper 1 year deal with someone like Fells.

    As for other contracts you spoke of;
    Badgers was way premature. He was injured and his contract didn’t end till 2016. At worst, they should have seen the recovery in 2016 before signing. One other point, I am not sure what the Badger is. He is not durable to play in the box and is a step slow in blitzes. He can’t hang deep with receivers and gets beat in the slot. He is smart and his instincts are excellent, but I am not sure I would pay someone 5 years 62 million and not know what he is.

    Palmer was paid big money but part of his cap hit is a restructuring that carried over. If you don’t have a QB and you found a good one who can run your system, you pay him. If the cards won the Super Bowl and Palmer retired and saved 14 million next year, no one would say a word about his contract. The question is, coming off an injury, and only 13 million in cap room, do you roll another year with him or go with a rookie and save 14 million in cap to build an oline. Tough decision.

    Personally, my plan would have been to add a cb and oline, resign Campbell, and push salaries into 18 and 19 , and see how 2017 worked and then release Palmer, Veldheer, Iupati, badger and Bucannon and saved around 40 million in cap room to add to the 13 available to pay for the additions in 2017.

  22. By georgiebird on Nov 30, 2017 | Reply

    Speaking of Bucannon. Great idea to make him a $LB???????? In reality, he is too small/ fragile to play the ILB position. It may have been a great idea but it won’t work out long term. It’s almost like keeping two 160 LB W/Rs only to realize they can’t keep up with the week to week pounding.
    And to make matters worse Bucannon was a #1 draft choice and converted to ILB. The personnel decisions over the past three years, range from brilliant to ridiculous-and that leads us to the Cardinals at 5-6 and ready to play the Rams. As most say, ” You are what your record is”.
    And don’t kid yourself, Campbell would have been hit or miss in the 3-4.

  23. By JTDG on Dec 1, 2017 | Reply



    DWash was a small ILB and he was 25+ pounds bigger than Buc.
    But to be fair, Bucannon has been a surprise and has played well at ILB.
    He is in no way the same as DWash in coverage or blitzes, which is sad since Buc is a safety at heart.

    Yes, I think last year, we are seeing the beginning of the wear and tear of his size inside. BTW, drop the $LB, he is a true ILB. But to my point, in no way to I resign him to a 8 or 9 million dollar a year contract. That will be a mistake.

    As for Campbell, he was very good in the 3-4, but seems to be better in a 4-3. But because he is doing better in a 4-3, doesn’t mean he was a risk to resign here. He played excellent and was a pro bowler here in the 3-4.

    Now one more comment, if you watch the game, and many of the past games, the cards have 4 down lineman and Chandler standing up. They started the game this way and were in this alignment a lot. Martin had his hand on the ground and was playing end not OLB. So, they are actually playing a 4-3 hybrid right now. The only reason they are not playing a true 4-3, is it gives Chandler a chance to go against TEs and it helps eliminate a lot of the double teams. Give Jones opportunities and he makes plays.

    So, if Campbell was here, he would be in that spot for Martin in my opinion with Golden out in this 4-3 hybrid, playing DE.

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