As the Game Turns: Week 1 vs New England: Confusion on 4th and 1

By G.Stryker

Each and every game has a pivotal moment where victory is decided.  Not always the game winning play, but a play that determines the outcome, and if it went differently, a different result could be likely. So, each week we will explore the exact moment of drama where the game pivots on: As the Game Turns.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin is known for his aggressive approach to 4th down.  On 4th and short, it’s a good chance he’s going to go for it.  After all, he has a Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, working behind All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, and guard David DeCastro, so it’s a good bet they can make one yard, let alone three inches.

With 10 minutes left in the second quarter, the Steelers already found themselves down 10-0.  After three plays, the Steelers were staring at 4th and inches. Even though they were on their side of the field at the 30-yard line, down and distance dictated that you try and force a quick sneak.  No matter where Tom Brady is on a field, facing the same situation, he’s always going.

Instead of going for it, the Steelers march out their punter and find themselves down 17-0 before their next chance to go for it on 4th down.  This time, they elect to go on 4th and 1, but instead of running, they pass to Donte Moncrief and he drops the football, giving the New England Patriots the ball at midfield.  The Patriots manage a field goal and the Steelers are now down 20-0.

The first drive of the second half is the best drive of the game, as the Steelers travel all the way down to the 1-yard line on 10 plays.  Another pass for Moncrief is dropped and the Steelers are facing 4th and goal from the one. In hostile territory, down by 20 points, the Steelers elect to kick the shortest field goal possible, and connect for three points.  Still down by three scores, this field goal had little impact in getting the Steelers in position to make a run in this game.

By this point, the game was over, and the Patriots only needed to run the clock to assure victory.  Confusion on when to go for it on 4th down set the table for the Steelers inability to be competitive.  As we’ve learned from watching him play for 20 years, it is never a good idea to give Tom Brady extra possessions, especially when you have a chance of keeping the football.

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