Matthew Stafford punts on question about 4th-down calls, says that’s ‘for the analytics guys’

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There’s been a major shift across the NFL in the last few years with teams going for it on fourth down more than ever. Coaches have become more aggressive when faced with a decision of whether to keep the offense on the field, kick a field goal or punt the ball away.

That hasn’t been the case in Los Angeles, however. Sean McVay has remained conservative in his approach on fourth down, rarely opting to go for it. He’s come under criticism for those calls, too, especially after Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.

He had the Rams punt on fourth-and-3 from Arizona’s 49-yard line and sent Matt Gay out for a 46-yard field goal while trailing by 14 points and facing a fourth-and-4 in the third quarter. Matthew Stafford was asked Tuesday about being aggressive on fourth down but he deflected the question and said it’s better suited to be asked of “the analytics guys.”

“I don’t know. I feel like that’s almost the question for the analytics guys,” he said. “I feel like everybody’s been crunching numbers about that, especially as of recent, the last few years. When I first got into the NFL, it was never even a thought. If it’s fourth down, didn’t matter, you’re pretty much punting the rock and letting the defense go out there. So, it is definitely evolving. I feel like certain teams are becoming more aggressive, I guess. I don’t really know. It just depends on feel and analytics. I feel like that’s what a lot of those teams rely on is the numbers and what the numbers tell them to do, and then go from there.”

According to the analytics, the Rams are being hurt by McVay’s lack of aggression on fourth down. They’re losing about 5% in win probability by kicking it in situations where they should go for it, second-worst only to Washington.

It’s puzzling because the Rams have a veteran quarterback, a great receiving corps and an offensive line that has been protecting Stafford. Yet, McVay still chooses to play it safe and trust his defense – even in a game where the Rams couldn’t stop Kyler Murray.

This is one area where McVay can certainly improve and he’s acknowledged that he can make better decisions. But after four-plus years, don’t expect much to change on this front.