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Fourth downs an issue for Arizona Cardinals in loss to Houston Texans

Fourth downs in the fourth quarter proved to be a major difference in this past Sunday's Arizona Cardinals loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

Cardinals coordinators were asked about one of those calls Tuesday. All three failed, and two of the three fourth downs came with plenty of time on the game clock and the Cardinals not in a position where they were forced to go for the first down.

The third fourth down, a fourth-and-8 with 35 seconds to play, was with the game on the line. Kyler Murray didn't connect with Hollywood Brown on a long pass and the Texans took over and ran out the clock.

But long before that, there was a fourth-and-3 at the Houston 23-yard line with 12:54 to go and Arizona down only five points. Murray hit Greg Dortch, but Dortch wasn't at the first down marker and was tackled short of the line to gain for a turnover.

"It's a little bit of everything. I think certainly those are, you know, want those routes to get behind the (first down) sticks. So when they catch the ball, even they get tackled right on the spot, we're converting," Cardinals offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said. "Certainly think just from a progression standpoint, wish Kyler had gotten the ball there a little quicker, because at one point, (Dortch) was just past the sticks. So I think it's a combination of both. And when both happen a little bit incorrect, in a big situation, you end up short."

The Cardinals could have kicked a field goal in that situation — practically a chip shot for Matt Prater after he'd hit from 57 yards earlier — and made the score 21-19, with their defense playing well and potentially getting the ball back to the offense for an opportunity to take the lead. The defense did its part, holding Houston scoreless in the second half.

"We were trying to win the game," Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon said of the first fourth down and the second, which came with 7:22 to play and resulted in an incomplete pass on fourth-and-4 from the Houston 45.

Petzing was asked about his interpretation of that at those points in the game.

"I think the way I think about it, and I think we've talked a little bit about this is, before the decision was made, does the decision to go for it give us the best chance to win the game period, end of story, nothing more?" Petzing said. "So that could be 51-49. And if we feel like it's 51 percent chance to win the game by doing it one way, we're gonna go that way every time. I think that's the biggest part of the analytics is when it's really close of having some instinct and feel and flow of the game to me, because sometimes those numbers can switch a little bit. ... it's always about when we do this, we all believe this is the best chance for us to win the game."

Special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers was asked if he was advocating for a Prater field goal try on the first missed conversion.

"There's a number of different factors that go into that. Ultimately, it's the head coach's decision and our job is kind of 'be prepared for whatever he decides.' I didn't really have a strong feeling," Rodgers said. "I mean, look at the way our offense is moving the ball and at that point, how our defense was playing and do you kick it? Do you go for it? Like there's a lot of things that you could talk yourself into in that situation. And you know, I didn't have a strong opinion on it."

The Cardinals did win on one fourth down. Murray ran in for a one-yard touchdown with 2:52 left in the third quarter on a fourth-and-1, the only points of the second half for either team.

White, Fotu to injured reserve

The Cardinals will be without starting inside linebacker and team captain Kyzir White and defensive lineman Leki Fotu for at least four games, with both going on injured reserve Tuesday due to injuries in the Houston game.

White was injured in the first half, suffering a torn biceps. He played a handful of more plays with the injury before leaving the game for good. Fotu injured a hand before halftime and didn't return.

The Cardinals re-signed safety Qwuantrezz Knight, and signed defensive lineman Ben Stille to the active roster from the practice squad. Wide receiver Daniel Arias was signed to the practice squad for another stint this season, with wide receiver Davion Davis released from the practice squad.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Cardinals use analytics, instinct on fourth down calls