The 4th-And-10 Punt/No-Punt Debate

September 25th, 2018

Joe loves great, old fashioned barroom football debate.

And the Bucs delivered a good one late last night.

Trailing 30-27 with a couple of timeouts with 2:49 remaining, the Bucs had 4th-and-10 on their own 20 yard line.

Dirk Koetter was faced with a decision.

Option 1: Go for it. If you succeed, great. If you fail, the Steelers are in position for a 3-and-out culminating in a short field goal for a six-point lead. And then you still time to drive for a winning score. Of course, the Steelers could score a red-zone touchdown and then the game is over, or they could miss their field goal. Their kicker was struggling.

Option 2: Punt and then try to force the Steelers to punt — or turn the ball over — and then have enough time to drive for a tie or a win.

Koetter punted.

The Steelers got a passing first down and then a rushing first down before landing in the victory formation.

Should Koetter have gone for it and put the game in the hands of his strength, the passing offense? Joe was clamoring for Koetter to go for it and talked about it on the Ira Kaufman Podcast today. Simply stated: Joe trusts the offense more than the defense. However, it can certainly be argued various ways.

NBC Sports NFL heavyweights Peter King and Mike Florio did just that this morning on PFT Live. The video is below. They really got into the Xs and Os of it all and Joe recommends it.

So who sided with Koetter? Clue, it wasn’t the guy who had a rough confrontation with Koetter a couple of years ago.


57 Responses to “The 4th-And-10 Punt/No-Punt Debate”

  1. Waterboy Says:

    2 timeouts left and 2 min warning, punt it.

  2. Robert Says:

    should have went for it.

    then again they should have opened a can of whoop ass from the get go, but no……….they wanted to play old time buc ball.

    they played like the bucs of old. almost like koetter was calling plays.

  3. Fartman Says:

    Our defense is just a tad stronger than a stiff wind, I would have gone for it

  4. Robert Says:

    yeah, punt it if the defense can stop them!!!

  5. Robert Says:

    someone tell miko to send brent next time! dat bi*tch sucked a$$

  6. JimmyJack Says:

    One thing I saw on that three and out is that Fitzpatck looked really bad with his throws. Each one looked like it had a chance to get picked.

    Not sure what Ryan saw or if coverage was great but he didn’t look poised to march down field to me……..That’s a big reason. I didn’t mind the punt.

  7. NotBuccs Says:

    Maybe in the bygone defensive era would relying on a stop and punt be an effective method to win a game, but I think the stats are gonna tell you to hedge your bets and go for it on 4th. It’s just not gonna happen, even if we had the best D in the league I really think you should go for it there.

  8. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    I posted on my Facebook Page about the game, and covered this there as well. Just click my name to read it.

  9. JimmyJack Says:

    Alright Robert don’t remind us……..Get the dude a chance to collect himself and rebound.

    and you might be able to push some of that blame on Smitty for just leaving the guy in. He did the same thing last year when Kwon Alexander had returned from injury and look like he was running through the Sands of Treasure Island

  10. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Very tough decision….but keep in mind, our defense had pitched a shut-out in the second half…..

    Either way, it’s all about execution……I think if the ball is on the 35 instead of the 20, you go for it….but on the 20….I think it was the right decision….can stop the clock 3 times…..

  11. Bucsfanman Says:

    The smart money is on punting. It’s obvious, however, that the injuries to Allen, Vea, and Unrein reared their ugly head on that final drive. You simply cannot expect guys who have been on the field for that long to be able to hold all the way to the end. Depth reared its ugly head!
    Fun debate but, you punt the football with the ball in your end with that much time left.

  12. miken Says:

    Have to go. You knew you weren’t getting the ball back. If you don’t make it they kick a fg maybe.

  13. Godeep66 Says:

    If you are a coach that is on the hot seat(Dirk), you go for it. If you are Bilichik, Tomlin, Harbaugh, Carrol, Payton: You punt the ball and never get second guessed.

  14. JimmyJack Says:

    Bucsfanman that is the truth…..and I didn’t see who was next to McCoy, guessing Gholston, but those guys can’t stand up to smash mouth football. That’s not their game……..and when you get to an end game situation like that it’s smash mouth football that usually wins.

    McCoy needs to play outside in those spots…… I know it’s been said a thousand times before but there’s a reason it’s been said that many times.

    Sorry McCoy I like you but you are a worthless finese do-nothing player when it comes to game situations like that………..we shall see what happens if we get healthy but Buckner needs to put together some good packaging.

  15. Mike Johnson Says:

    Time to move on. The Bears are a winnable game for our Bucs. The Steelers played desparate and manchild like. They were bigger/stronger and a hellava lot more physical than we were. They were..Hungry. ..period. The Bears can be beat. We just got to outscore them. Cause our Defense is giving up an average of..30 points a game. Thats a Whole lot people. Fitzmagic shall return. Just hope our Defense can somehow..get off the field.

  16. cmurda Says:

    Our defense sucks. Spin it however you want but that’s the reality. It’s no better than it was last year despite all the effort Licht put into it. Hopefully, they get better later in the season. The fact of the matter is punt or don’t punt last night. The answer is a no-brainer. You go for it. The offense has a better chance of getting 10 yards over the defense not allowing a first down. And at best case scenario, we would have been down 6 requiring a TD. Fitz stunk it up with the opportunity throwing 3 ill-advised passes, any of which could have been picked. With that said, our receivers were wide open all game. Koetter has lacked courage since becoming Head Coach and yet again it cost us any chance of winning the game. If we were the Bears or any number of respectable defenses, then I punt. Our team is built for offense. It was a bad call. Period.

  17. Sunny Says:

    Also the one in one qt , from around 35 line on our side , FG or punt , he punted we sure needed that 3 pts there . If he Fg three we should be in the poisition for the 4th qt punt/ go for it

  18. Robert Says:

    someone tell mccoy this aint bingo night and he needs to stop apologizing.

    they were out for blood on fitz.

  19. Deminion Says:

    I wanted them to go for it if you don’t get it you force the D to hold them to a FG or TD. my question was why did they take OJ howard out of the plays he was abusing the pit lbs ijs

  20. Buccernutter Says:

    Those who say go for it easily because our defense sucked are wrong.

    We pitched a shutout the second half. They were playing well lol

    Smart move is kick it. But I would have gone for it. Just because our offense was our strength so far this season.

  21. Couch Fan Says:

    Its not a tough decision if you paid attention to how the game was going. Our defense had been giving up big plays all day. There was no way they were going to stop Pitts offense. I knew this the second Koeter made the cowardly call to punt. Going for it should of been the only option, anything else was conceeding the game. I had cowardly football. Go for the freakin win Bucs. SMH.

  22. NewTampaChris Says:

    The better question is: In this league, how can anyone throw three straight incompletions?

  23. SteveK Says:

    On this drive we threw the ball deep theee times. To me, if you’re going deep on the first three downs it implies you are going for it.

    If we knew we were going to take 3 shots to get a first down and then punt, why not pick up a few yards to make it a 4th and 6 or something?

  24. bigdaddio Says:

    It’s math at this point and I think it favors a punt. I think I read 4th and 10 is a 20% make. So 20% of the time you will have first down around your 35 as the best case.

    If you punt, I think the odds are better than 20% you will get the ball back around your 25 yard line with 2 minutes to go.

    If it were 4th and five where the conversion % is more like 40% I think you go for it.

  25. Jasonm Says:

    Should have gone for it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was so pissed Koetter didn’t go for it. No balls Koetter!!!!

  26. Robert Says:

    bucs played buc ball yesterday plain and simple.

    no fitzmagic…maybe he was being conservative, but if the let him play the bears i bet he lights it up again.

    what does he have to lose?

    kinda like the steelers played last night.

  27. Michael Sullivan Says:

    They had the ball at the 3 yard line before halftime and decided to kick the field goal. Then Pit marched 75 yards for a TD on the next drive. They should have went for the TD at the 3 down 23-7. I understand accumulating points, but no guts. And if you don’t get it they are backed up inside the 3 yard line. If you get it, you win the game by 1 assuming everything else plays out the same. Maybe the momentum is such that Pit doesn’t score that last first half TD and the Bucs win by more than 1. Questionable play and coaching last night. Also, I think some missed penalties against Pit by the refs. Disappointing, but 2-1 to start the season without Jamies, no Bucs fan would have said that was going to happen a month ago starting against, NOLA, Philly, and Pit. I’ll take it.

  28. ATrain Says:

    Hey Joe

    How about the Million Dollar man Effect. No Effect

    Miss a Sack in a must make situation

    McCoy is good
    But this is why I say he is not great
    Doesn’t make a play at the needed time

    McCoy only got his name called after the

    Sorry Ben Sorry

    Really it’s football
    The Steelers drove our guy in the ground
    McCoy should have paid back and take. A 15 yarder

  29. Bucsfanman Says:

    ATrain- The d-line faded down the stretch. In fairness though, JPP and GMC were the only ones consistently pressuring Ben. Not excusing the play of GMC, just pointing out that once again, it’s the same guys producing and not producing. That missed sack could have sealed the game. Shame!
    Gholston has played admirably out of position and I don’t recall Curry’s name mentioned. Our lack of depth really showed.
    As an aside, our secondary has escaped criticism thus far this season. Grimes looked slow, Davis struggled keeping up, and Conte got crushed. The whole defense has to show up if we are to eye playing beyond December.

  30. BucEric82 Says:

    Punt it….easy decision in my eyes

  31. WalkdaPlank Says:

    In my opinion, they should’ve went for it. This Bucs defense is top 5 worst in the league, if not THE worst. Fitz threw 3 bad passes on the 3 and out and likely could’ve thrown a 4th, but if the Steelers get the ball on the 20 they have a short field, less opportunities to run down the clock, and all the Bucs had to focus on was not giving up the TD, instead of first downs. Steelers kicker could have likely missed as he did earlier in the game (twice) and even if he didn’t the Bucs were hot in the second half and still could’ve gotten the ball back and scored a GW TD.

    I think if the defense was just a little bit better, you punt. I understand why they punted, but I don’t agree with it. I’d rather put the game in the hands of your hot QB who rebounded from a bad first half than one of the worst defenses in the league who did have a strong second half as well but are still miles behind the offense.

    Offense is far better than the defense. Shouldn’t have punted. Oh well

  32. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Our D was playing well the 2nd half with 0 points given up and a few sacks/stops/etc. We also had been playing the run well all day which we knew would be coming.

    Given the above I think it made sense to punt.

    The real end game blunder was going 3 plays for 0 yards there. Could have swore 2 of those plays had potential but the throw wasn’t there

  33. WalkdaPlank Says:

    The real issue here is not the punt on your own twenty….

    It’s the punt on your opponents 36

    The field goal when you’re down by 20 points in the second half

    You won’t win many games with that mentality

  34. Loyaltotheend Says:

    Can’t coach scared with a defense this bad. Play to your strengths it’s what good coaches do

  35. JimmyJack Says:

    In my opinion Fitzpatrick should have done something with the first three down. I hate to say this about my QB but it looked like a choke to me.

    Maybe my emotions remember it differently but Ryan looked badly out of sync on that series. I had no faith he gets 10 there.

  36. Sunday_44 Says:

    You have to look at the game from a standpoint that we were lucky to have the ball in our hands with the chance to win.

    If you approach all 4 downs that way, you have NO/ZERO business trying a deep ball to Mike Evans, who was double covered.

    That was a prayer and his next throw hit the ground.

    Where were all the short throws this game?

    Earlier for a very BRIEF moment they started working sideline to sideline.

    You could tell it was wearing down the defense and we ended up scoring.

    You use the Time Outs to discuss the next play if needed and get it right.

    3 and out was ALL on Fitz and you will never see him lead a team from behind and actually win!!

    That’s Jameis’s job!!!

  37. JimmyJack Says:

    Just read your post Lord…….basically same thing. Props for saying it first.

  38. Eric Says:

    go for it, if you fail you can still stop them to field goal, and get the ball back with time to score winning TD. So you get two bites at the apple.

    But we kinda sorta look like a beaten team at that point anyhow. Used up all the energy to pull close. And the punt return had been called back.

    Prolly same result either way.

  39. Rod Munch Says:

    Worst defense in football over the last two years vs the best offense in football, a QB that has thrown for over 400 yards and needs 10 more, there’s no debate unless you’re just one of those people that say the coaches handbook says you ALWAYS punt the ball.

    You need to have a feel for the game and not coach scared, which is how Dirk coaches, and has always coached. This is the same guy who punted from the Pitts 36 in the first half. This is the same Dirk that told Winston in the last game of the year to play for a FG when the kicking game was terrible.

    Dirk is more worried about what might go wrong than he is about winning games. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who was watching that game knew the Bucs defense isn’t stopping the Steelers twice in a row, it’s not happening.

    So lets say he goes for it and doesn’t get it… so what? You still need a stop or the game is over. So if you hold them they kick a FG and you get the ball back with a chance to win the game.

    The only people defending this are the people that read a bumper sticker and then endlessly repeat what they read as a fact. You must have a feel for the game. In that NO game last year, where Jameis went like 92 yards or whatever in under 2 mins with no TO’s to win the game, I do believe he was down to 4th down on the first set of downs on that drive before making a play a 4th down. Had there been over 2 mins left Dirk would have punted that ball and lost the game, because that’s what losers do, they coach scared.

  40. JimmyJack Says:

    Punt was the proper call in that situation

  41. Rod Munch Says:

    JimmyJack – Yes we know, punting is right, because even if you lose the game at least the people who quote from the coaching handbook will say you made the right call, because, well, everyone must abide by the coaching handbook, and well, it’s unthinkable someone would watch a game, have a feel for a game, and make a decision based on the flow of the game. Nope, a coach once said in 1958 that you punt the ball, so you punt the ball, and all distenters who say otherwise will be shamed… shamed…. shamed!!!!

    Anywho did you watch the Eagles literally win the SB last year by throwing out the coaches handbook?

    But who cares about winning, what matters most is doing what the handbook tells you to do, because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do, and we can’t have people not doing what the handbook says.

  42. Phil Says:

    I knew as soon as they line up to punt the game was over and the Steelers won. I think everybody knew it. We should have gone for it to give ourselves a chance.

  43. DBS Says:

    Punt was the proper call. No way in hell was this defense going to stop them from scoring a TD. No more then they did with less then a minute to go in the first half.

  44. gambelero Says:

    It’s not even close. The amount of points matters a lot. A couple of things it’s not:

    It’s not just the chance of making it
    It’s not just the chance of stopping them.
    It’s not just whether or not you trust the defense, or the offense more.

    It’s a combination of factors.

    The probability of making (missing) 4th and 10 time what you gain (lose) by making it. Down 6, you’re pretty much out of the game if you miss. You need a 3 and out and then a missed FG. Down 1 or 2, the road gets much tougher if you miss. You’ll need to get a three and out and then score a touchdown. Down 3, though, you need a touchdown either way to win. True you can get to 50% by going down and kicking a field goal if you punt and get a three and out, but whether you’re down by 3 or down by 6, you still need a touchdown to win.

    So, going for it:

    if you make it, you can score 7 to win or 3 to get to 50% chance of win.
    if you don’t make it, you can get still get a three and out, then you’re 90% to need 7 to win with 2:00 minutes and no time outs–probably starting around your own 25.

    if you punt, you must get a three and out, then you need to get a tying field goal to get to 50% or a touchdown to win–probably starting around our own 25.

    People remember the Steelers getting two first downs, but the game was really over before the second first down. Even if we get the ball back, the best we could hope for was to get it back with less than 20 seconds and no time outs, probably starting at our own 10-20 yard line.

    It does matter whether your offensive is relatively better than your defense and vice versa. A better offense favors going for it, a better defense favors punting, but that will only be a factor in a close decision (say down 1, 2 or 5). Down 3 favors going for more than any other score, down 4 is probably next.

  45. Miguel Grande Says:

    Go for it, just like Jameis did on the last drive of the last game last year.

    Last team to possess the ball wins.

  46. Rod Munch Says:

    If you hold them to a FG, and use your two timeouts, you’re down by 6 and have 2 mins with the ball in your hand – how is that being the game is almost over because you’re down by 6, with the ball? Against that Steelers defense there is no reason to think Fitz couldn’t do what Winston did against a much better Saints defense (and that’s not a knock on Fitz, I’m literally saying I think he drives the field and gets a touchdown). Additionally not letting Dirk play for the FG and a tie, where whoever loses the coin toss loses the game, well that’s a good thing since Dirk would have played for the tie because he coaches scared.

    Again, you go for it and if you don’t get it you still have to hold them – just like you had to hold them after the punt. If they score 7 the game is over – well if you punt and they get a 1st down, the game is over. The game is over in either case, the only difference is you controlled your own destiny rather than giving it to the defense, which no reasonable person thought would hold.

    It’s not even a close call. You go for it, you don’t put the game on the shoulders of Mike Smith and that God awful defense, instead you say Fitz, if you want to be the starter, go get 7. Instead Dirk, like the cowardly coach he is, punted the ball, just like he punted the ball from the Steelers 36 in the first half. It’s how cowards coach – they’re more worried about the media calling them dumb if they do something not by the coaching handbook than they are worried about winning.

  47. James Walker Says:

    Why no onside kick when your kicking off from the 50 yard line? You risking maybe 15 yards of field positions for a chance to get the ball back.

  48. Bob in Valrico Says:

    No issue with the punt at the 20. I felt that we should have gone for TD instead of Field goal at the end of first half.. Believe we were on the two. A running play would have killed more clock and forced Steelers to have bad field position even if we didn’t score. Doubt that they would have been that aggressive backed up near the goalline. That said We need to get better blocking from Smith,Marpet, and Jensen side of the line.

  49. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Edit : Better blocking in the run game.

  50. rrsrq Says:

    If the refs call the holding penalty when Ben completed that last past to JuJu, who knows, maybe we get the ball back because they are backed up 10 more yards, ijs

  51. Bucsfanman Says:

    Rod Munch – I agree with your point, mostly. The 2nd half was a defensive shut-out though. Ben made a heck of a play to extend the drive. I really thought we had him.
    Conversely, if Koetter goes for it and fails, Steelers go down and score, we’d be lamenting the call. It’s a double-edged sword.
    Coaches “handbook” ? Eh, more like laws of probability, IMO.

  52. Godeep66 Says:

    @jameswalker: damn good point. They had the kickoff two time at the 50 in which I was thinking the same thing. One side kick!!!!

  53. George Says:

    I don’t want to hear the excuse that the D didn’t give up any points in the second half so you punt. That is correct they didn’t give up any points but they gave up first downs and yards. They didn’t make the Steeler go 3 and out. so what makes you think all of sudden that would happen

    Second half drives

    10 play drive 48 yards
    5 play 12 yards
    6 play 39 yards

    You go for it. Your strength of the team is the top rated offense, not your 31 rated D

  54. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    The greatest Super Bowl winning coach would have gone for it. When it comes down to it you trust the part of the team that is the hottest and even though Fitz threw 3 straight bricks that defense couldn’t stop much of anything I don’t care what they did in the 3rd. Shoulda stuck with the offense.

  55. Rod Munch Says:

    What’s more likely, that Fitz gets 10 yards versus a bad defense, or your even worse defense gets a 3 and out versus the top offense in football? Plus, as stated, even if they get a 3 and out, if they do the same thing where they were on the field then Pitts kicks a FG and you get the ball back with a chance to win the game anyways. Either way you have to stop them, either way you have to score, so why would you take the ball out of the hands of your QB?

    Philadelphia won the SB by ignoring the coaches rule book people keep quoting from. As stated above Belichick isn’t punting there. You know who punts there? Tony Dungy – because he has one of the best defenses ever. Dirk has Mike Smith and 3 rookie defensive backs playing and the worst defense in football for 2 years now while having the 2nd best offense.

    You go for it, and it’s not even debatable.

  56. Tampa Bay Demon Says:

    I don’t blame Koetter for punting, 90% of NFL coaches would have.

    But I would DEFINITELY have gone for it. I did not have faith that we would stop them.

  57. Brandon Says:

    The playcalling sucked in the last drive anyways. We had tons of time. We could have thrown a bubble screen or two, a flare… anything to beat the blitz and/or make it 3rd down or 4th down and short but we kept calling plays deeper down the field like there was almost no time left in the game. We looked like we went into full-Koetter panic mode and then went full-Koetter turtle shell mode. That really was like a Koetter playcalling game all the way down to not spreading the defense out, running to the sideline, little playaction, and full turtle shell when it mattered most.