NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There’s a crystal clear risk or reward when going for it on a 4th and 1, up two points from your own 35-yard line with about two minutes remaining in the ballgame.
If your team can’t convert and turns the ball over on downs, then the opposition is already in prime position for a potential game-winning field goal. If you get the conversion, you’re able to keep milking the clock and continue inching towards victory.
Frank Reich didn’t even consider the possibility of his Indianapolis Colts offense not converting in that exact same situation Sunday afternoon against the Tennessee Titans. Up two points, 19-17, on a scorching hot day in Nashville, Tenn., Reich had all the confidence in the world in his offensive line and his quarterback to get the job done in that scenario — even after a failed attempt to draw the defense offsides.
Reich called timeout, but he had already made up his mind long ago — he was going for it.
So quarterback Jacoby Brissett lined up under center Ryan Kelly, took the snap and took advantage of a big push from Kelly and left guard Quenton Nelson, getting the yard needed to move the chains and force Tennessee to call its second timeout.
Though the Colts would have to punt four plays later, the conversion allowed them to milk more than a minute off the clock, making the Titans scramble for yards on their final drive of the ballgame. Tennessee would eventually turn the ball over on downs, and Brissett was able to take a knee to send Indy home with its first win of the season.
Reich said after the game he wasn’t “trying to sound like a tough guy,” but he was so confident in his offense that going for it on that 4th-and-1 scenario, in his own territory, “really wasn’t much of a decision.”
“I never even considered anything else other than going for it,” Reich said. “I just thought since we had the timeouts it made sense to try to draw ‘em offsides — I figured we weren’t gonna get them. But at that point, with the confidence in our offensive line, confidence in Jacoby, who’s a big, strong guy, as well, there was no chance we weren’t going for it.”
Brissett being a “big, strong guy” certainly plays into that decision. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound QB joked he wears “a lot of weight,” but gave all the credit to the guys up front for winning their matchups.
“I think everybody in the stands knew we were getting that we were getting that fourth down. I don’t think our O-line would’ve been denied, no matter what,” Brissett said. “Honestly I could’ve probably stayed up and gained two or three yards just because of the push we had up front.”
That critical decision certainly could’ve gone for naught had the Colts’ defense not stepped up and forced the turnover on downs on the ensuing Titans possession.
And Tennessee certainly threatened to get into field goal range. Without any timeouts, Marcus Mariota found rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown for an eight-yard completion to get to the Indianapolis 45-yard line, spiking the ball on third down to stop the clock with 15 seconds left.
On 4th and 2, however, Mariota couldn’t connect with Brown for the first down, and the Colts are flying home with win No. 1 on the year.
“I was just a little bit disappointed that we couldn’t end the game with the ball in our hands,” Reich said. “After we had the one first down, I think it was, we had to punt there at the end. Really had a vision and a mind for us making a first down there; we take a lot of pride in ending the game with the ball in our hand, but thankfully our defense came up and made a stop.”
Week 2 is underway and you can see all the best action on the field as the Indianapolis Colts faceoff with the Tennessee Titans in their first divisional game of the 2019 regular season.