Down by four points with over three minutes remaining in the game, Andy Dalton forces an incomplete pass to Brandon Tate (seriously, Brandon Tate?!) setting up a fourth and five. Going for it on fourth down invites shadows of previous attempts this season, mostly all from special teams but not without attempts from the offense. Even earlier Sunday afternoon. With 3:23 remaining in the first quarter, head coach Marvin Lewis went for it and Andy Dalton completed a 20-yarder from the Dolphins 35-yard line to Jermaine Gresham during a cross near the right sidelines. So it's a reasonable expectation that they'd do it again. Wrong.
Instead the usually reliable Mike Nugent pushed the 41-yard attempt wide right, his first missed field goal this year, and Cincinnati's offense failed to generate any points during a point in the game that time hadn't become a major factor just yet. And logic suggests that it was the right move. A successful field goal with over three minutes meant a field goal on the next possession wins the game, provided Cincinnati's defense firmly stood against Miami's neutralized rushing offense. Which they did.
Thanks to an incomplete and Jorvorskie Lane reception in which he ran out of bounds, stopping the clock, Cincinnati's offense retook the field with 1:45 remaining from their own 20-yard line. Instead of shooting for a field goal with a handful of chunk yardage plays to win the game, Cincinnati needed 80 yards without a timeout during a game in which the big play was strangely absent. Not that it mattered. A risky throw deep down the middle into zone coverage led to an interception.
When asked why he went for a field goal with over three minutes remaining, Marvin Lewis said that they played the percentages.
“There, we’ve got automatic – or what should be automatic – points,” Lewis said. “We’ve got the ability to kick off, have a touchback, pin them back again, get the ball again – just like we had done the previous series – have another opportunity for a field goal or touchdown, and win the football game going away.
“I’ve got to trust our guys are going to get done what they’re going to get done. Fourth-and-five, at that point, is not as high of a percentage. Sometimes we have to do it…but in this situation I chose to take the field goal.”
Truth be told we support the decision to convert the field goal. Nugent hadn't missed yet this season and Miami only converted one of three third down opportunities by this point in the fourth quarter, stalling an offense that generated 1.1 yards/rush on the ground. Had Nugent's 41-yarder connected, Cincinnati is in a better position without the risky plays needed to generate a fourth down conversion or an 80-yard touchdown drive. The percentages just worked.
Would you have gone for it on fourth down?