4th Down, Punting, and Coach Harbs’ Nut Sack

Featured, Sports and Bets — December 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm by

Let’s just get this out of the way.  I think punting is criminal.  I hate it.  Football is the only sport that I can think of in which a team willingly gives up offensive possession.  To me, willingly giving away the football makes no sense, especially when the rules allow for four chances to make ten yards.  Why only use three plays to do so? The extra offensive play could give teams confidence and it would allow for a more diverse playbook on third down.  But for most football folks and fans of the ultra-conservative football world, punting is all the rage.  Hell, teams will punt even when it statistically makes no sense.  I’ve seen NFL teams punt from inside their opponent’s 40 yard line, for crap’s sake, only to watch the ball roll into the end zone for a touchback and a net field position gain of less than 20 yards.  Of course, I’m on the complete opposite side of things, I think teams should almost never punt, and I would certainly never punt if my team possessed the ball anywhere from the fifty yard line or better.  To me, it’s ridiculous to give the ball away, and I’m not the only person who believes this.  You may have heard of Kevin Kelley, the high school coach in Arkansas who never punts and always onside kicks.  His story is here and it’s a great read and watch for any football fan, whether you think the strategy of never punting is dumb or not. It’s best to read that quick link to help understand where I’m coming from in regards to Sunday’s Raven loss.

 

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Obviously, things differ in the NFL from high school, or even college, in terms of punter skill and offensive and defensive efficiency.  And I doubt that any NFL coach will ever put together a roster that fails to have a punter on it.  But I think most would agree that teams should at least go for it more than they do on fourth down, especially when driving into enemy territory. Touchdowns are better than field goals, babes, and in fourth and short situations teams just punt way to damn much.  Take the Ravens/Chargers game as an example.  The Ravens have gone for it on fourth down 14 times this season, that’s the second most fourth down attempts in the league.  But yesterday Coach Harbaugh’s nut sack shrank considerably.  Maybe it was the caliber of the opponent or maybe it was because of all the playoff implications.  Whatever it was, Harbs didn’t go for it on fourth down at all against the Chargers in Sunday’s loss and he had plenty of opportunities to do so.  Two particularly golden moments to use all four downs came in back-to-back possessions in the first half.  After a Ravens TD on the opening drive Philip Rivers was intercepted by Daryl Smith at the San Diego 19.  The Ravens worked their way down to the 10 in three plays.  Facing a fourth and one the Ravens lollygagged in their decision-making and ended up taking a delay of game penalty.  They then kicked a field goal.  The decision to go for it should have been made two downs earlier and with their indecision the Ravens ended up squandering an opportunity to be properly aggressive.  Fourth and one on the enemy’s 10, in the first quarter, ahead by 7?  I’m going for that every time.  Failing to do so in this instance may have cost the Ravens the game.  If Harbs had his nuts, they immediately call a play on fourth and one and go.  There’s no doubt in my mind Harbs goes for it in that situation 9 times out of 10.  Only he knows why he hedged on it yesterday.

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The next golden opportunity came in the Ravens next possession with what was now a 10-7 lead.  The Ravens, after a nice drive, faced fourth and goal from the San Diego three yard line.  No-brainer.  You go for the TD there.  Even if you fail you leave the Chargers in horrible field position and at that point in the game the Baltimore pass rush was working.  To me, a fourth down attempt makes perfect sense here.  Scoring touchdowns hurts teams- especially when they are on the road.  Kicking field goals gives your opponent little moral victories.  And while a goal line stand is a victory as well for a defense, the reward is much greater than a measly three points.  Going for it is worth it.

We mentioned earlier that the Ravens had gone for it 14 times this season.  They had converted 8 of those attempts on the year for a solid 57% conversion rate.  If the Ravens go for it in our two “golden moment” examples and covert to that percentage they probably come away with seven points instead of six and then the probability of them winning the game sky-rockets.

With the defense playing as poorly as it is, points scored are even more important.  In order to score more the Ravens need to maximize their red zone opportunities and that means going for it on fourth down in that part of the field.  When your secondary is allowing 400 yards a game, field goals just ain’t gonna cut it.  That was proven yesterday. And with only four games left the Ravens need to become ultra aggressive in order to win out. It’s no holds barred from here on out, babes.

Harbs needed his nut sack yesterday.  For some reason it shrank into his gut.  If he would have had it, the Ravens would have had a better chance at winning.  Let’s hope his sack grows back for the stretch run.

cover: kansascity.com

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