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Kingsbury's Choice To Go On Fourth Down? The Right Decision

It was, not surprisingly, a matter of great debate following -- heck, even during -- the Cardinals' loss in New Orleans Sunday. Kliff Kingsbury's decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 (really, fourth-and-half-of-one) at the Cardinals' 30-yard line halfway through the third quarter and the Cardinals trailing, 10-6.

Let me say up front I didn't have a problem with the decision at the time -- and again, this has to be seen through the prism of before, not after, hindsight always being 20/20 and all that. I understand those who argue he should have punted there. I just don't agree. (I apologize for anyone upset I'm not letting Kyle Odegard take this post.)

The analytics blog actually called the decision to go the third-best of the NFL weekend, one that increased the Cardinals' chance of winning by 3.7 percent. (No, that doesn't hold once the play was stopped, but again, this is about the decision in real time.) Kingsbury was asked Monday about using analytics on the play -- something Kliff alluded to Sunday after the game -- and called it "a starting point."

"You're going to have a feel for the game and there are a bunch of things that go into it," Kingsbury said. "But there is a baseline you can work with, knowing what the numbers say."

It was something else that Kingsbury said after the game that resonated with me and matched my feeling at the time, that the Cardinals at that point needed to "make something happen." Let's go back to when all this went down. Yes, it was 10-6. But the only reason the Saints didn't have at least six more points -- and maybe more -- was because of a missed field goal and botched end-of-the-first-half scenario. Drew Brees was terrific. Latavius Murray was running the ball well.

Heck, the only reason the Cardinals had the ball in that situation in the first place is because Brees basically made his lone mistake of the game, overthrowing his fullback so that Patrick Peterson could grab his first interception of the season. It wasn't like the Cardinals had forced a punt. Given the high percentage that the Cards would convert fourth-and-less-than-1 and the high probability the Saints would be able to march after a punt right back into at least field-goal range, going for it was OK to me.

Yes, there are caveats here. Kingsbury acknowledged he made bad playcalls (of course, if they worked, they aren't bad, so ...) The Saints did play well up front, so it's tough to win at the line. But one yard? Even against a good defense you should be able to get a yard. Then there is the biggest point -- the Saints are a superior team. This was about actually pushing to get an advantage in a situation where you are the decided underdog.

The Cardinals were also 5-for-5 on fourth downs prior to that call. They had converted before.

The debate won't go away. But I do not believe it cost them the game in my humble opinion. I also like how Kingsbury didn't back off of it Monday, either.

"Would I take it back?" Kingsbury said. "No. I'd have call a play that worked."

QB Kyler Murray set under center to take a snap in new Orleans 2019