The Carolina Panthers’ coaching staff made the right decision about punting on 4th and 1 at the end of the game against the Atlanta Falcons. At that point, there were only a few possibilities with that particular scenario:
- Convert the 4th and 1 (by any means [penalty, fake punt, run, or pass]), run out the clock, therefore ending the game
- Fail to convert the 4th and 1, giving the Falcons the ball at midfield with around a minute left and roughly twenty yards of field position to gain for a legitimate field goal attempt
- A blocked punt (highly unlikely) resulting in either a return for a touchdown or even better field position than a missed 4th down conversion, this being the worst possible scenario for the Panthers
- A punt which results in a touchback, giving the Falcons the ball with approximately forty-five yards to gain for a legitimate field goal attempt
- A punt which is downed deep in Falcon territory, therefore giving the Falcons the most amount of ground to cover of all the above options (with the obvious exception of a successful 4th down conversion)
Only the first scenario results in a guaranteed victory for the Panthers, but it’s also the riskiest option. Remember, at this point (around 1:05 to go in the 4th quarter) Atlanta had no timeouts left. Atlanta was going to have to head to the sidelines or have enough time to spike the ball following every play. The more yards Atlanta had to cover, the better. The Panther coaching staff insured that Atlanta would have to move 65 yards or so to have a legitimate shot at winning the game. This was a defensive breakdown, not a strategical screw-up. This is one of the few times where playing a “prevent defense” would have worked, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense executed perfectly in the shadow of their own goalpost, and Roddy White made an amazing athletic play to give their team a chance. No defense in the NFL has an excuse to let the opponent drive almost the length of the field with under a minute left and no timeouts starting from their own 1-yard line.
Going for the 4th down conversion is always the sexiest for the fans, but they forget (or don’t take seriously) the possibility that they don’t gain that yard needed to convert. Sometimes even the right decision backfires, and this was one of those times.
The Saints can still put on a good show, but they are not a playoff team. Drew Brees and that offense hung in there against the Packers, but they still couldn’t seal the deal and get their first “W” of the season. This just goes to show how important the job of Head Coach is in the NFL. Someone has to steer the ship other than a player. Just as companies don’t survive without CEO’s, NFL teams won’t go very far without outstanding coaching and organization.
The Jets Way doesn’t seem to be working. They lost Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis for the year, their offensive line can’t block, Mark Sanchez has no help whatsoever, The Tebow Wildcat has resulted in nothing significant, they barely got by the Miami Dolphins in overtime, and lost to the model of the “Ground and Pound”, the San Francisco 49ers, by a 34-point shutout. Rex Ryan said in the preseason that every Defensive Coordinator in the NFL fears the Wildcat, but the 49ers didn’t look like they feared much of anything. This team has to stop going for the front page, forget about the gimmicks, and start making decisions that actually result in their team winning football games.