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Kliff Kingsbury’s Fourth-Down Shift

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury looks over his play sheet on Sunday against the Bengals.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury looks over his play sheet on Sunday against the Bengals.

In the first two games of the season, the Cardinals had fourth-and-manageable inside the opponent’s 5-yard-line on four occasions.

Each time, coach Kliff Kingsbury kicked field goals.

The decisions drew the ire of the NFL’s analytics community, which believes coaches are more conservative than the win-probability data suggests they should be on fourth downs.

Kingsbury has spoken multiple times about his appreciation for analytics, which is why it was a bit of a surprise that he wasn’t more aggressive in those situations, but he helped clear up his reasoning after Sunday’s win over the Bengals.

In that game, he went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Cincinnati 6, and quarterback Kyler Murray scored a touchdown on a naked bootleg.

So what changed? Even though the percentages may have tilted toward aggressiveness earlier in the year, Kingsbury was wary of putting too much on Murray’s shoulders at that point.

“(It’s) just being confident and more comfortable in what we are as an offense with what we do,” Kingsbury said. “(I wasn’t) trying to put the entire game on (Murray) the first three or four (weeks). We were trying to get points and keep us in the ballgames.”

It is something to watch moving forward, as Murray has shown nice command of the offense despite his inexperience, which could lead to more fourth-down aggressiveness. For his part, the young quarterback will take any extra chances Kingsbury gives him.

“I’m glad he left us out there,” Murray said. “Third down it was smart taking the completion, no matter how many yards it was (seven on third-and-9). It set us up for that fourth down. Him having faith in us, and leaving us out there, and we scored.”

Table inside Article
Opponent Distance Yard Line Result
Lions 4th-and-goal DET 2 20-yard FG
Ravens 4th-and-1 BAL 4 22-yard FG
Ravens 4th-and-goal BAL 3 21-yard FG
Ravens 4th-and-goal BAL 2 21-yard FG
Bengals 4th-and-2 CIN 6 6-yard rush TD

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