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Vance Joseph Invites The Challenge Of Defending Fourth Downs

Defensive coordinator knows he can be aggressive in such situations

The 49ers went for it on fourth down five times against the Cardinals last week, and the Cardinals stopped the Niners four times. It was one of the stories of the game. And while there might not be five attempts every game, Cards defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said he wasn't surprised and won't be with any opponent going forward.

Not with the offense the Cards have.

"If our offense is rolling and scoring 30 points of the game I'm expecting teams to go for fourth downs, especially when it's fourth-and-1, fourth-and-2 in the fringe area," Joseph said. "That should happen for us. It's a good thing. If we're scoring that many points a game and teams are going for it, I don't mind it."

Why wouldn't Joseph mind? Not only does it mean the Cards are scoring, but Joseph -- very confidently -- believes his defense then has the upper hand in that situation.

"I have more calls than (the opposing coach) has, in my opinion," Joseph said. "I'm not worried about fourth downs. Fourth downs are a tough play to call from an offensive perspective. He doesn't know what I'm in. He can call whatever he wants, I can call whatever I want. We'll see who wins the down. I'm not afraid of fourth downs.

"Certain calls he cannot make on fourth downs, So I can be really aggressive. If it's fourth-and-2 or -3, I can sell the farm. If it goes to be a 9-ball or streak ball, so be it. He won't get it off probably. So I'm not afraid of fourth downs. ... They've got very few plays that he can say that are going to work, that's safe enough to get them off (before the defense gets there). So do it. And we'll see."

Overall this season, the Cardinals have stopped seven of the 10 fourth-down plays opponents have attempted. The Cardinals' offense has converted all three of their fourth-down attempts.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph high-fives after a win in Jacksonville in 2021