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Football 4th Down

What is football 4th down? Get ready to learn about 4th down in football.

What is 4th Down in Football?

4th down is the fourth and final down in the down cycle for a team to convert to a 1st down by reaching the 1st down line. If the 1st down line is reached on 4th down, the down cycle is reset back to 1st down. If the team does not reach the 1st down line on 4th down, the ball is given to the opposing team at the spot of the ball. This is called a turnover on downs.


A fourth down in football is the final down of the down cycle. It comes after the third down and usually involves a punt or a scoring attempt. If the offense fails to convert to a first down on fourth down, the ball is given to the opposing team at the spot of the ball. Most teams punt the football to avoid giving the opposing team good field position.

If the offense is in field goal range or is very close to the goal line (or in certain situations, very close to the first down marker), they may try to score via field goal or convert a first down. Fourth down conversion tries are very rare and may only occur once or twice during a game.

4th Down Play Calling Strategy

4th down is arguably the most exciting down in the down cycle as it is the final chance for the offense to gain a 1st down. In most situations, the offense will punt the ball to the opposing team or kick a field goal if they are in range rather than risking turning the ball over to the other team.

If the offense elects to go for the 1st down on 4th down, they are likely passing the ball unless they are very close to the 1st down line, in which case they may run the ball. Trick plays are also used very often on 4th down as a means to confuse the defense and perhaps get an easy 1st down. Trick plays can also be ran out of the punt and field goal formations, so they are likely to be run if the offense is willing to risk the field position the defense could gain by stopping the play.

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