Inside The Bills

Punting vs. going for it on 4th down

Posted by Chris Brown on September 14, 2013 – 6:07 pm

It’s become a more popular football strategy topic since the advent of analytics in the sport that has stretched beyond the coaching offices. Punting versus going for it on fourth down. Head coach Doug Marrone has his philosophy, which was put into practice last week when he chose to punt on the New England 49-yard line on 4th-and-1 with the lead.

“My overall philosophy is you always want to make sure that you’re giving your players the ability to win the game in your decision making process,” said Marrone in his weekly radio appearance on WGR Sportsradio 550. “We’re 4th-and-1 at the 49-yard line and we have the lead. Field position is a big thing. There’s a percentage of scoring and field position for each team. For us at that moment with the lead it’s safer and better for us to play field position percentage-wise than it was for us to go for it on 4th-and-1.

“Now it also depends on what you’re looking at. The 49-yard line is not often in the analytics, because it usually goes 35-40 (yard line) because in that range you’re looking at percentage of field goal make, plus the three points. There are other variables and you can see that more. We tend to call that four down territory, but a lot of it depends on how each side of the ball is playing and how the game is unfolding that day. There are down and distance philosophies and there are field position philosophies and they both come into the equation, but often when people speak they only use one of those.”

Marrone says there are other variables to consider too.

“How they’re playing offensively and how your defense is playing and the situation in the game, how much time is left and if we’re going to have another possession,” he said. “Is this our last opportunity where we have to take that chance? You’ve just got to make the right decision and you work off the percentages and sometimes they fall the wrong way.”

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