Football Fourth Down Strategies

Football offenses have four tries to attempt to gain 10 yards, which would earn them a new set of downs so that they could continue to march down the field. If it is fourth down, that means a team was unsuccessful on their first three attempts. Teams have three options on fourth down: to punt the ball away, to kick a field goal, or to for it.

Punting on 4th Down

Punting is the most common option on fourth down. If a team is anywhere on their own half of the field or are not in their kicker's perceivable field goal range, they will punt on fourth down.

Punting is more likely the more yards a team has to go for a first down. If the down and distance is 4th and 2, they are more likely to go for it, but if penalties or loss of yardage pins an offense at 4th and 15, they are almost guaranteed to attempt a punt.

Teams occasionally line up in a punt formation just to end up going for it. These fake punts can either be throws or runs, and their success comes from the element of surprise.

Field Goals on 4th Down

The typical team is within field goal range anywhere inside the 30-35 yard line. If they are not in dire need of a touchdown and are outside of the red zone, field goals are the usual choice. The risk with attempting a long field goal is that a miss results in excellent field position for the opposing team.

When inside the 10 yard-line, field goals are almost a guaranteed three points, but coaches will sometimes get greedy and attempt to go for it since they are so close.

Fake field goals are very rarely utilized, but are an option on 4th down to attempt to pick up a first down.

Going for It on 4th Down

Attempting another play on 4th down is the most exciting option since a conversion continues the drive while a failed play results in a turnover at that spot of the field. Teams are unlikely to attempt to go for it unless the ball is in the opposing team's half and if there are only a few yards to go. If it is 4th and inches, then teams will often opt for QB sneaks since the yardage is so small.

Depending on the situation, most teams will go for it when they are very close to scoring a touchdown since seven points are significantly more valuable than three.