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More NFL Coaches Going For It on 4th-Down Situations

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    NEWSLETTERS

    More NFL Coaches Going For It on 4th-Down Situations
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    GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 12: Head coach Jay Gruden of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines during the first half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 12, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Fourth-and-no is becoming fourth-and-go in the NFL.

    More coaches are going for it in situations that used to be automatic punts or field-goal attempts. Through Week 13, teams went on fourth down 350 times and converted 181 or 51.7 percent.

    Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden made perhaps the boldest call when Washington faced fourth-and-inches from its 41-yard line with a 29-24 lead and 6:12 remaining against the Green Packers on Nov. 20.

    Going for it meant risking the possibility that Aaron Rodgers would get the ball close enough for a short field with the game on the line. It defied conventional coaching logic, but Gruden kept his offense on the field, quarterback Kirk Cousins sneaked for the first down and the Redskins went on to score and secure the win.

    "I think it's confidence in the offense, No. 1 and, quite frankly, the defense if you don't get it, that if you do give away a short field that they'll get the ball back for us," Gruden said this week. "But mainly, it's confidence in the offense. We have a big, physical offensive line, we have got a big back, and we have a quarterback where if we want to do a bootleg or if we want to drop back and throw it, we have confidence that he can make an accurate throw.

    "Confidence in the offensive line that can get movement, we can get a foot or a yard or 2 yards, and confidence in the quarterback to get it done."

    For Cousins, it was an easy decision, even if teams holding leads late in the fourth quarter usually punt in that situation.

    "I think you had to do it," Cousins said. "It's just a matter of which play to call and how do we execute it versus the front or blitz that they will bring."

    No team has more fourth-down attempts than Philadelphia's 19. But coach Doug Pederson's aggressive playcalling cost the Eagles (5-7) a win against the New York Giants in November.

    Pederson passed up two chip-shot field goals to go on fourth downs in the first half. Both attempts failed. The Eagles lost 28-23 after failing to score a touchdown on four tries from the Giants 17 in the final minute.

    Obviously, six points would've made a difference. But Pederson had no regrets and stuck by decisions that backfired.

    "It shows confidence and belief in the guys," Pederson said. "At that time, I felt like we were moving the ball."

    Last week, teams were 17 for 30 on fourth down. Several of those attempts came at odd times during games, including a few in the Texans-Packers game played in snow.

    The Texans went on fourth-and-1 from the Packers 49 early in the second quarter in a scoreless game. Alfred Blue got stopped and Green Bay turned the short field into a touchdown.

    Houston later passed up a 23-yard field goal and went on fourth-and-1 from the Packers 6 midway through the third quarter. Brock Osweiler tossed a TD pass to tie it 7-7.

    But coach Bill O'Brien got conservative after that conversion.

    He chose to punt on fourth-and-5 at Green Bay's 36 in a 7-7 game late in the third. He decided to punt again on fourth-and-7 from the Packers 44 with 8:59 left and trailing 14-7.

    "It's just where we were on the field," said O'Brien, offering no explanation for the inconsistent decisions.

    The Packers converted on fourth-and-2 from the Texans 42 when Cristine Michael ran for 5 yards on their first scoring drive. But they failed on fourth-and-2 at the Texans 48 later in the game.

    O'Brien also had some interesting fourth-down calls against Oakland in the Monday night game in Mexico on Nov. 21.

    He went on fourth-and-inches from the Raiders 15 with the score tied and 6:15 left in the game. Akeem Hunt got stopped short on what appeared to be a poor spot by the officials.

    "I felt like we needed a touchdown there," said O'Brien, even though a field goal would've given Houston the lead.

    After Oakland went up 27-20, the Texans faced fourth-and-5 from their own 44 with only 3:13 to go and one time-out remaining. Yet, O'Brien chose to punt. The Texans never got the ball back.

    "If I had it back, I'd go for it," O'Brien said afterward.

    Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn passed up a short field goal down 27-16 in the third quarter against Kansas City last Sunday. He went on fourth-and-1 at the Chiefs 10. Atlanta didn't convert and eventually lost 29-28 because Eric Berry picked off a 2-point conversion and returned it the other way. Quinn's decision to go for it earlier instead of kicking a 23-yard field goal also proved costly.

    AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

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