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Homecoming king: The legend of Lamar Jackson rooted in South Florida – Baltimore Ravens Blog

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BALTIMORE — The pocket was collapsing around Lamar Jackson, forcing him to juke a defender to get to the outside. Then, while on the run, Jackson launched a 40-yard pass downfield for a touchdown.

“Oh my God!” a woman cried out from the crowd as Jackson’s pass soared in the air.

This wasn’t a highlight from Jackson’s MVP season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019, or a recent clip from one of his incredible comebacks. This was an 11-year-old Jackson at a youth-league championship game called The Ultimate Bowl in 2008, and the play can still be viewed in grainy footage on YouTube.

That type of reaction has long been the soundtrack of Jackson’s football life. When the Ravens play at the Miami Dolphins on Thursday (8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network/Fox), Jackson will be returning to the area where he first wowed everyone with his ability to run around tacklers and throw the ball farther than anyone else.

From Pompano Beach to Northwest Broward County to Boynton Beach, coaches, players and fans who watched him during those early years in Florida remember witnessing a special athlete.

“You can go back and see tape where he would do certain things as a youth, and then of course, everybody would say: ‘He won’t be able to do that on the next level,'” said Van Warren, who has been one of Jackson’s most influential coaches since childhood. “Then when he got to [Boynton Beach] High School, he wowed everybody. Then, well, ‘He did it in high school but he won’t be able to do it in college.’ He ended up winning the Heisman Trophy.

“I’m not really surprised when I see him on TV.”

Jackson was named MVP his first season of playing football at the age of 7 and won the award for every youth football team onward. From ages 8 to 13, he would regularly score five to six touchdowns per game — the box scores would get printed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In two years at Boynton Beach, Jackson won 22 of 24 games and scored 80 touchdowns. He produced more than 5,000 yards of offense along with countless leaps, sidesteps, broken tackles and stiff-arms.

A group of about 30 people who watched Jackson in high school is making the short trip south to attend Thursday’s game at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. They expect Jackson’s mother, Felicia Jones, and brother, Jamar, to stop by their tailgate and share stories of what Jackson did before he took the NCAA and NFL by storm.

“We don’t see him as Lamar Jackson football star,” said Lyndon Clemons, an assistant principal in Palm Beach County. “He’s Lamar. He’s a regular kid.”

‘Let’s go to work’

Warren was Jackson’s first quarterback coach. He met him on a football field when Jackson was 8 after hearing all the buzz about him beating older kids in street football.

Warren’s challenge to Jackson: If you want to play quarterback, you have to throw the football 20 yards.

“He threw me a dime,” Warren said. “I was like, ‘OK, let’s go to work.’”

Over several years, Jackson and Warren met at a local park every Sunday to work on quarterback mechanics, focusing on everything from footwork to holding the ball correctly. There would be times when they would spend nearly a half-hour on three-step drops.

On one particular Sunday morning, a teenage Jackson got a chance to go to a Dolphins game, and he asked his mother if he could attend. The answer was no. He had committed to training on Sundays, and it was too late to break that obligation.

“He’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever been around,” Warren said. “He’s the one who finished all of the training.”

‘He would fake you out of your shoes’

Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary and Jackson grew up 10 minutes from each other. The only time they collided in youth football was at the age of 9 in an 80-pound league.

Singletary got the better of Jackson early, running him over for a touchdown. Jackson, who was playing cornerback for the first time, later acknowledged he was upset about the missed tackle.

On the next play, Jackson responded with a touchdown run of his own.

“A lot of people don’t know that just because Lamar plays quarterback, they might not think he’s physical,” Singletary said. “But he had a few runs where he dropped his shoulder on a linebacker. It was serious. He can do it all. He definitely retaliated.”

With the score tied at 14, Jackson won the game with a late touchdown run.

“Nothing has changed,” Singletary said. “He would fake you out of your shoes. He might have jumped over you. Whatever it took to win, he did it all.”

‘The whole crowd went: ‘Woooo!’

Ed “Bubba” Jones, who coached Jackson at age 11, took as much pleasure in watching Jackson play defense as quarterback. Lining up at safety, Jackson hit a running back so hard that his helmet flew off.

“The whole crowd went: ‘Woooo!’” Jones said.

Jackson’s Northwest Broward Raiders lost to the powerhouse Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes 12-0 in that game, but the teams met again that season in the Super Bowl. It was a huge challenge for the Raiders to knock off the South Florida Youth Football League’s two-time defending champions, who had won 40-plus straight games.

Before 5,000 fans, Jackson fumbled near the goal line on the opening drive but bounced back to throw two touchdowns in a 14-6 triumph.

“If I had the film of that game, you would be like: he looks the same as he does now,” Jones said.

As champions, the players got to choose their reward: a Super Bowl ring or a trip to Disney World? They went for the ring.

‘I couldn’t believe it’

Bill Tome was a resource police officer at Boynton Beach High when a student ran up to him to say the team got a great transfer quarterback.

Tome hopped into his golf cart to race over to the football field where he got a glimpse of a 16-year-old Jackson throwing the ball.

“You’re pretty good,” Tome told Jackson before delivering a playful jab. “But you’re not that good.”

When Jackson asked why, Tome explained, “Because you didn’t play for my Bulldogs.”

Tome had been the director of the Boynton Beach Bulldogs, one of the top youth football programs in the area.

“You’re right, sir,” Jackson said to Tome. “I beat your Bulldogs in the playoffs when I was 11.”

Tome checked it out by calling the head coach of the Bulldogs, who informed him that Jackson ran in two touchdowns to lead the Raiders to a 12-6 victory over the Bulldogs in the 2008 playoffs.

“He did his usual zigzag all over the place. You know, Lamar Jackson style,” Tome said. “I didn’t know who he was, and then I see him five years later and I couldn’t believe it.”

‘Get your popcorn ready’

Clemons, an assistant principal at Boynton Beach High at the time, was in the stadium press box after a flag football game when he heard Jackson yell, “Watch this.”

Jackson threw the ball 100 yards — from one end of the field to the other. The video of the high-arcing toss, which includes a woman saying, “Oh my gosh, Lamar,” has generated nearly 165,000 views since 2015, as well as plenty of skeptics.

“People see that video a lot of times, and they’re like, ‘That’s made up,’” Clemons said. “I’m like listen, at the school I was in, that was not made up. We didn’t doctor any videos. The kid really did that.”

Another video that went viral was of a spring game against Village Academy in May 2014. A scrambling Jackson ran down the right sideline before abruptly pulling up at the 1-yard line to let the defender fly past him. He then walked into the end zone and threw his hands up. Highlight packages of this play have totaled more than four million views.

“When you watch him and you watch others, you never know what you’re going to get next or how he’s going to do something fantastic,” said Clemons, who was on the field for that memorable play. “So get your popcorn ready, because he’s going to put on a show for you.”

‘Stay tuned’

Jackson has never lost touch with his roots, even though he’s become one of the biggest stars in the sport. He still has his championship ring from when he won the Super Bowl at 11. On his social media, he’ll post team photos from his youth football days — circling himself with a laughing emoji underneath — as well as videos where he repeatedly fakes out defenders.

Jackson also remembers many of the youth football highlights that never made YouTube. Asked about the time one of his teammates nearly lost his pants running for a touchdown, Jackson acted as if he were back at the fields in Pompano Beach.

Going step by step in precise detail, Jackson recalled a game when he was 12 years old and his team trailed with one minute left in the fourth quarter. He recited the playcall that “Coach Peanut” [Warren] had given him during the timeout, imitating the exact instructions from him. Jackson then reenacted the play, rolling out to his right and motioning the throw to the opposite side to a teammate named Jet.

And, yes, Jet did have to hold up his pants as he ran into the end zone.

“Those days mean a lot to me,” Jackson said. “I always reminisce about stuff like that. You can only be a kid once.”

That’s what makes this South Florida homecoming as special for those who watched him as it is for Jackson. For just the second time in Jackson’s NFL career, fans will get to watch him again in-person at a stadium that sits 25 miles from where all of those legendary stories began.

“The world is amazed by what they’re seeing now,” Warren said. “But I still say, stay tuned.”



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Now with the Seattle Seahawks, running back Adrian Peterson still playing for ‘love of the game’

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RENTON, Wash. — Four days after he was waived by the Tennessee Titans last week, Adrian Peterson went to see his alma mater, Oklahoma, play rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater. He was getting out of his car to begin tailgating when his agent called to tell him the Seattle Seahawks were interested in signing him.

Peterson’s response: “I’ll be good to go. Obviously, I still want to play.”

On Thursday, a day after joining Seattle’s practice squad, the veteran running back was asked why he still wants to play at 36 years old and more than 14 seasons into a Hall of Fame career.

“Just the love for the game,” he said. “I love the game. I feel like I can still compete at a high level. Just having the opportunity to help teams, to inspire guys. That’s one of the most rewarding things. When I see guys, and they say to me, ‘Man, just keep doing what you’re doing,’ it’s so inspiring.”

When asked what he still wants to accomplish, Peterson said “winning a championship.” He’s not going to get that opportunity with the Seahawks (3-8) now that their chances of making the playoffs are down to 1%, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

But he might get to contribute in a banged-up backfield that’s dealing with injuries to Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer. They’ve been backing up Alex Collins, who has been the starter since Chris Carson went down with a season-ending neck injury.

Peterson, who signed with the Titans after they lost star Derrick Henry to a foot injury, carried 27 times for 82 yards and a touchdown in three games before he was waived.

“I don’t really feel like I showed too much in Tennessee,” he said. “But before I got released, I was feeling my legs were back under me. I felt like going into the Patriots [game last week], that was the week I was going to be able to blossom and unfortunately I got released.”

With Penny and Homer out Monday night, Collins and DeeJay Dallas combined for only 18 yards on 10 carries in the Seahawks’ loss to Washington. Seattle ranks 25th in rushing this season and has scored only 26 points on offense during its three-game losing streak.

“This style offense and how their run game is, it kind of fits my style a little more than I would say Tennessee,” Peterson said. “So I think it’ll be an easy adjustment for me.”

Behind Collins, Penny, Dallas and Homer on their active roster, the Seahawks have rookie Josh Johnson and now Peterson on their practice squad.

“I felt like it’s a lot that I can add to the run game and inspire these young guys as well, make those guys work harder,” Peterson said. “When they see me out there pretty much going full speed during the walk-through 14 years in, that makes them kind of pick up their tempo a little more as well. I feel like I’ll be able to add to the running back room and help get this running game going.”

As for when that might happen, Peterson wants to play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, though it’s not clear if he’ll be ready in time on a short week, or if the Seahawks will need him right away as Penny and Homer were both listed as full participants on Thursday.

“It’s a goal for me,” Peterson said of playing Sunday, “but that’s up to the coaches and staff to see how I finish off this week and then they’ll make a decision based off that.”

The Seahawks are Peterson’s seventh team. After spending his first 10 seasons in Minnesota, he had stints with Arizona, New Orleans, Washington and Detroit before his most recent one in Tennessee.

Peterson ranks fifth in NFL history with 14,902 career rushing yards. According to Spotrac.com, he has made over $103 million in on-field earnings over his 14-plus seasons. However, an attorney for Peterson said in 2019 that the running back was in debt after “trusting the wrong people and being taken advantage of by those he trusted.”

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How good is your NFL coach on fourth-down calls? We rank all 32

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The NFL is about to set a record for most fourth-down attempts in a season.

Again.

Coaches are on pace to dial up 838 fourth-down tries in 2021, up from 780 the year prior. (Even if this were a 16-game season, they’d be on track for a 788 attempts.) It will mark the fourth consecutive year a new high has been established.

Not only are coaches going for it more on fourth down, they’re getting better at making those calls that give them the best chance to win. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the number of fourth-down errors has plummeted each of the past four seasons, reaching a new low of 951 leaguewide in 2020 and on pace for even fewer this season.

The increased application of analytics has changed the game on fourth down. Coaches across the league are being guided by game-management specialists who communicate the probabilities of an upcoming fourth-down try in real time.

The most famous example came in Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. Before Eagles coach Doug Pederson had his sideline conversation with quarterback Nick Foles, leading to the decision to run the “Philly Special” late in the first half, Pederson spoke with Ryan Paganetti, the Dartmouth grad responsible for feeding Pederson math-based recommendations when it came to, among other things, going for it on fourth down.

Anticipating such a situation, Paganetti clicked into Pederson’s headset prior to the Eagles’ third-and-goal play against the Patriots and told him: If we get to fourth down, the light is green.

And the rest is history.

League sources estimate 28 of 32 head coaches have game-management specialists, with about 10 of those being members of the team’s analytics department. The trend of teams being more aggressive on fourth down is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The practice is becoming more widely accepted and is likely to be commonplace before long.

Is your team ahead of the curve? Here’s a look at how each head coach stacks up. — Tim McManus

How we rank: To come up with our coaches ranking, we looked at all fourth-down calls made under the current head coach with his current team. (For example, for Mike McCarthy, we would only include fourth-down calls made with the Cowboys, not the Packers.) The timeframe was limited to 2017-21, when analytics were firmly established across the league. We relied on three metrics from the ESPN Analytics team:

  1. Total win probability sacrificed through fourth-down errors

  2. Difference in expected fourth-down conversion rates vs. actual rates

  3. Non-obvious fourth-down error rate

These metrics are shown as per-season averages and measure whether the coach’s decision agreed with our analytics model (accounting for two-thirds of the final ranking) as well as success in running fourth-down plays (one-third). All 32 coaches were sorted on those metrics and then those rankings were used to create the final order.

Jump to:
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH

Years covered: 2019-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 18.7% (Rank: 7)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 6.5% (Rank: 1)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 20.2% (Rank: 2)

Most notable fourth-down call: Down 33-31 Week 2 game against the Minnesota Vikings with 6:12 left in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals faced a fourth-and-5 from the Vikings’ 44. Quarterback Kyler Murray hit wide receiver Christian Kirk on a 35-yard pass that put Arizona at the Vikings’ 6 and four plays later, kicker Matt Prater hit a 27-yard field goal that put the Cardinals up 34-33 and wound up being the deciding score. It helped the Cardinals improve to 2-0, which eventually became 7-0. The game could be a crucial NFC win depending on how the standings shake out in January. — Josh Weinfuss


Years covered: 2019-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 15.3% (Rank: 4)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 3.7% (Rank: 5)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 22% (Rank: 5)

Most notable fourth-down call: The Packers were facing fourth-and-goal at the 8-yard line, down 31-23 to the Buccaneers with 2:09 left in the 2020 NFC Championship Game. LaFleur took the ball out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ hands and called for a field goal. The Packers never got the ball back and the Buccaneers ran out the clock on their way to the Super Bowl. — Rob Demovsky


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 14.6% (Rank: 3)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 2.9% (Rank: 8)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 21.6% (Rank: 7)

Most notable fourth-down call: In October 2019, the Ravens were tied at 13 in Seattle midway through the third quarter and faced a fourth-and-2 at the Seahawks’ 8-yard line. After sending out Justin Tucker for a field goal, Harbaugh saw the upset look on quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s face and asked him if he wanted to go for it. Jackson responded, “Let’s get it” and then fought his way to the end zone by running “quarterback power” for a touchdown in a 30-16 victory. This moment kick-started Jackson’s MVP season and showed why he is the winningest quarterback since taking over in Baltimore in the middle of the 2018 campaign. “This guy is a competitor of the nth degree,” Harbaugh said at the time. “And it showed today. You saw that fire.” — Jamison Hensley


Years covered: 2021
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 18.4% (Rank: 6)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 1.3% (Rank: 12)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 18.8% (Rank: 1)

Most notable fourth-down call: In Week 1, the Jets trailed the Panthers 3-0 in the second quarter and faced a fourth-and-1 at the Panthers’ 42. The Jets ran inside and running back Tevin Coleman was stopped for a 1-yard loss. Saleh, in his first game, showed an aggressive side — but it backfired and set a tone for the season. On the ensuing play, the Panthers scored on a 57-yard touchdown pass to take control of the game. The Jets have been reeling pretty much ever since. — Rich Cimini


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 16.1% (Rank: 5)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 0% (Rank: T-14)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 21.1% (Rank: 5)

Most notable fourth-down call: In Week 14 of 2018, the Chiefs had fourth-and-9 at their 40 trailing the Ravens 24-17 with 1:29 left in the game. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was flushed from the pocket to his right by pressure. While on the run he threw the ball across his body back to the middle of the field and got an improbable 48-yard completion to wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs went on to score the tying touchdown (also on fourth down) with 53 seconds left. They went on to win in overtime and the victory allowed the Chiefs to take the No. 1 seed into the AFC playoffs. — Adam Teicher


Years covered: 2021
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 10.2% (Rank: 1)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -20.9% (Rank: 31)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 20.5% (Rank: T-3)

Most notable fourth-down call: During Week 2 of the 2021 season, the Eagles had a fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line, holding a 3-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers. Sirianni dialed up a Philly Special-like trick play, with wideout Greg Ward getting the ball on a reverse and looking to pass to quarterback Jalen Hurts in the end zone. But the Niners were all over it, and Ward had to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone. Afterward, Sirianni said he regretted the playcall, but not the decision to go for it. The Eagles’ win probability dropped by about seven-tenths of a percentage point, the sharpest decline on any of their fourth-down plays this season, in a losing effort. The Niners went on to win 17-11. — Tim McManus


Years covered: 2021
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 19.7% (Rank: 9)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 2.2% (Rank: T-10)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 24.2% (Rank: 18)

Most notable fourth-down call: Early in the second quarter against the Browns with the score tied at 7, wide receiver Brandin Cooks gained 13 yards on third-and-15, but the Browns were called for an offside penalty. This gave Culley the chance to give the offense another shot on third-and-10 or decline the penalty and try to convert a fourth-and-2 from midfield. Instead, he declined the penalty and punted. The Browns got a touchback. The next day Culley said, “If I had to do that again I would take the penalty. And give our offense a chance to get the first down, which I should have done.” The call showed Culley’s inexperience as a first-time head coach in a big situation. — Sarah Barshop


Years covered: 2020-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 13.1% (Rank: 2)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -12.9% (Rank: 30)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 21.2% (Rank: 6)

Most notable fourth-down call: The Browns had fourth-and-9 from their own 32 with 4:19 remaining in the second round of the 2020 playoffs at Kansas City, which held a 22-17 lead. Cleveland, which has been among the most aggressive teams to go for it on fourth down under Stefanski, punted instead, hoping to get the ball back. It never did, as Kansas City iced the game on backup quarterback Chad Henne‘s fourth-and-1 completion, eliminating the Browns. — Jake Trotter


Years covered: 2020-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 27.2% (Rank: T-22)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 4.2% (Rank: 4)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 23.4% (Rank: T-13)

Most notable fourth-down call: The Panthers faced fourth-and-3 at their 32, down 24-21 with 3:05 remaining against Washington in Week 11 this season. Quarterback Cam Newton threw a short pass to running back Christian McCaffrey that was stopped less than a yard shy of a first down. First, the Panthers had been set to punt because that’s what analytics said to do with that much time and all three timeouts remaining. Then they burned a timeout to make the decision to go for it, because Newton didn’t know all of the two-minute package after having one full week of practice. Then Newton didn’t get the ball to McCaffrey beyond the first-down marker. It led to a Washington field goal that meant Newton needed to lead a touchdown drive in the final minute, which he couldn’t do, and Carolina lost 27-21. — David Newton


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 19.6% (Rank: 8)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -6.6% (Rank: 24)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 22.7% (Rank: T-10)

Most notable fourth-down call: In Week 10 of this season, Minnesota led the Los Angeles Chargers 27-20 and faced a fourth-and-2 from the L.A. 32-yard line. Quarterback Kirk Cousins handed the ball off to running back Dalvin Cook, who gained 4 yards to pick up the first down. The Vikings kneeled out the clock and beat the Chargers. This was the start of the Vikings’ new-found aggressiveness. Zimmer didn’t want to risk giving the ball back to Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert with over two minutes to play. The run from Cook allowed Minnesota to ice the game and snap a two-game losing streak with an important road win. — Courtney Cronin


Years covered: 2020-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 21.7% (Rank: 11)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 0% (Rank: T-14)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 26.2% (Rank: T-19)

Most notable fourth-down call: Facing fourth-and-10 at their own 24, the Cowboys trailed Washington 20-16 in the fourth quarter. They were in the game, despite the death of strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul the night before. McCarthy OK’d a fake punt, and wide receiver Cedrick Wilson lost a yard. Washington scored on its next play and ended up winning 41-16. McCarthy knew his team was emotionally spent and tried to inject some energy into the unit, but it backfired. — Todd Archer


Years covered: 2021
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 24.1% (Rank: 17)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -10.5% (Rank: 27)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 20.5% (Rank: T-3)

Most notable fourth-down call: It was fourth-and-7 at the Dallas 32-yard line, with the Falcons down 7-3 to the Cowboys with 4:12 remaining in the first quarter. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw an incomplete pass to wide receiver Russell Gage, giving the ball back to Dallas. Yes, it was in the first quarter, but the play set the reality of the game for the Falcons: They weren’t going to be able to win by settling for field goals. The game devolved into a 43-3 blowout win for Dallas. Atlanta’s failure versus New England on fourth-and-1, when running back Qadree Ollison couldn’t gain a yard in a 13-0 game in the red zone during the third quarter, also was under consideration. — Michael Rothstein


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 29.4% (Rank: 27)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 0.1% (Rank: 13)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 22.1% (Rank: 9)

Most notable fourth-down call: In their 2019 regular-season finale, the Seahawks trailed San Francisco 26-21 with 12 seconds left, facing fourth-and-goal from the 5. Quarterback Russell Wilson hit tight end Jacob Hollister on an in route over the middle, and he was stopped inches from the goal line by a pair of 49ers defenders. A touchdown would have given the Seahawks a victory and the NFC West championship, but their loss meant opening the playoffs at Philadelphia as a wild-card team, before losing in the divisional round at Green Bay. — Brady Henderson


Years covered: 2019-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 21.9% (Rank: 12)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -3.9% (Rank: 22)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 23.6% (Rank: 15)

Most notable fourth-down call: The Dolphins were tied 20-20 with the Jaguars in the fourth quarter of a 2021 Week 5 game played in London — in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa‘s first game back from injured reserve. Out of shotgun formation, Tagovailoa handed the ball off to Malcolm Brown, who was quickly wrapped up by Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Jacksonville got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining and kicked a game-winning field goal with time expiring, snapping a 20-game losing streak and spoiling Tagovailoa’s return. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 20.4% (Rank: 10)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -11.6% (Rank: 28)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 23.2% (Rank: 12)

Most notable fourth-down call: Down 24-12 in the AFC Championship Game following the 2020 season, the Bills had the ball and were facing fourth-and-3 at the Chiefs’ 8-yard line with 5:52 left in the third quarter. McDermott elected to send kicker Tyler Bass out for the Bills’ second field goal try of the day within the Chiefs’ 10-yard line. Bass made the 27-yard attempt, but the Bills lost the game 38-24. The lack of aggressiveness on fourth down hurt the Bills’ chances of bouncing back on the road one game away from the Super Bowl. “I thought about going for it on both occasions,” McDermott said. “Maybe if I had to do it over again, I would have went for maybe one of them.” — Alaina Getzenberg


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 27.2% (Rank: T-22)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 3.2% (Rank: 7)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 26.2% (Rank: T-19)

Most notable fourth-down call: The No. 1-seeded Saints were trailing the Eagles 14-0 in the divisional round of the 2018 playoffs when Sean Payton dialed up a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from New Orleans’ own 30-yard line. Taysom Hill took the direct snap and ran four yards — and the Saints went on to score on a fourth-and-goal call when quarterback Drew Brees completed a 2-yard pass to wideout Keith Kirkwood. Those bold calls drastically changed the game. The Saints went on to win 20-14, before losing to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game (which included a gutsy fake punt by Rams coach Sean McVay). — Mike Triplett


Years covered: 2018-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 24.5% (Rank: 18)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -1% (Rank: 17)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 23.8% (Rank: 16)

Most notable fourth-down call: The Colts were facing fourth-and-4 from their own 43-yard line in overtime against the Texans in 2018. After an attempt to draw the Texans offside failed, the Colts called timeout, met with quarterback Andrew Luck and brought the offense back on the field. Luck’s throw landed at wide receiver Chester Rogers‘ feet, giving Houston a short field to work with to win the game. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson completed a 24-yard pass to wideout DeAndre Hopkins one play later to put the Texans in position for a Ka’imi Fairbairn 37-yard field goal to win the game.

The loss was the second straight for the Colts, but that was secondary in the big picture for Reich and Colts. It was the moment that the players bought into Reich, who was in his first year as a head coach. “Frank, I knew from that point on, he had the locker room,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard later said. “He had them. Because he believed in them, and he supported them, and he took the bullet for them. That’s the beautiful thing. That is a unique thing in our profession.” — Mike Wells


Years covered: 2019-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 22.6% (Rank: 14)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 0% (Rank: T-14)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 26.8% (Rank: 22)

Most notable fourth-down call: Look no further than the opener of the 2021 season. The Bengals led the Vikings 21-7 and were cruising in the third quarter when the Bengals decided to attempt a fourth-and-1 on their own 30-yard line. It didn’t work. Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon slipped and was stuffed for no gain, giving the Vikings a lifeline. Minnesota took advantage, scored on the ensuing drive thanks to a fourth-down touchdown pass and got back into the game. Even though the execution failed, it clearly showed the intent the Bengals were going to play with during a pivotal campaign. That was evident when Cincinnati attempted a fourth-and-1 in the final minute of overtime, a play that proved to be successful and set up the team’s 27-24 win in Week 1. — Ben Baby


Years covered: 2021
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 22.2% (Rank: 13)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -25.8% (Rank: 32)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 22.7% (Rank: T-10)

Most notable fourth-down call: In Week 7, on the road against the Los Angeles Rams, the Lions trailed 17-16 on fourth-and-8 with at 10:02 in the third quarter. Safety C.J. Moore fielded the snap in punt formation and went 28 yards around the left end to the Rams 37. The Lions were unable to get any points on the drive, but they showed on this play that they were willing to think outside the box to go for a win. — Eric Woodyard


Years covered: 2018-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 23.9% (Rank: 16)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -6.2% (Rank: 23)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 24.1% (Rank: 17)

Most notable fourth-down call: The Titans were facing a fourth-and-1 at the Texans’ 3-yard line in the second quarter of Week 12 of the 2018 season. Vrabel decided to go for it by running a fullback belly play with tight end Luke Stocker, who was stuffed for no gain. The Texans took over, and Lamar Miller scooted 97 yards for a touchdown to put the game away. Going for it on fourth down wasn’t the issue. Deciding to give the ball to Stocker, who had zero NFL rushing attempts up to that point, was. The loss gave the Titans a 5-6 record and dampened their playoff chances. — Turron Davenport


Years covered: 2019-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 26.6% (Rank: 21)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 2.2% (Rank: 11)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 27.5% (Rank: T-24)

Most notable fourth-down call: It’s all about context for Fangio. Heading into the 2021 season, Fangio ranked last among his peers in going for it on fourth down; so when he went for it on fourth three times in the season opener this year then two more times in Week 2 — the Broncos went 5-for-5 on those — it showed a definite change of heart. The most important was in Week 1, again because of context, when trailing the Giants 7-3 late in the first half. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the Giants’ 49-yard line, Fangio went for it despite the threat of the Giants having the field position for more points before halftime. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed a 14-yard pass to Courtland Sutton to convert; the Broncos scored a touchdown three plays later; and they didn’t trail again. It also helped launch the Broncos to a 3-0 start for Fangio’s first wins in September in his tenure. — Jeff Legwold


Years covered: 2021
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 61.9% (Rank: 32)*
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 5.2% (Rank: 3)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 27.3% (Rank: 23)

Most notable fourth-down call: The Chargers and Eagles were tied at 24, and Staley faced fourth-and-1 at the Eagles’ 28. He sent the offense out to pick up the first, but the Chargers let the clock run down and called timeout. Staley again sent the offense out; teams can’t call consecutive timeouts, so it was clear the team was going for it. Justin Herbert ran the ball and got enough for the first down. Four plays later, Dustin Hopkins made the kick with :02 left to win the game. The call established Staley as a go-getter on fourth down and put the Chargers back on track in the AFC West. — Shelley Smith

* Staley’s league-worst WP sacrificed ranking can mostly be chalked up to being too aggressive for our model in going for it as opposed to attempting field goals against the Chiefs in Week 3. Without those plays, he would rank higher on this list.


Years covered: 2021
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 28.7% (Rank: 25)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 5.9% (Rank: 2)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 31.8% (Rank: 31)

Most notable fourth-down call: The game was tied 20-20 against Miami with five seconds to play, and the Jaguars had the ball on fourth-and-8 on the Miami 44-yard line in London. After calling timeout, Meyer and OC Darrell Bevell opted to call a play called “slider” instead of attempting a Hail Mary. It’s a quick throw that would take only a few seconds and still allow the team to call a timeout before the clock expired. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed a 9-yard pass to wide receiver Laviska Shenault, and Meyer called timeout with one second to play. Matthew Wright then kicked a 53-yard field goal, and the Jaguars won 23-20. That snapped a 20-game losing streak dating back to the team’s victory over Indianapolis in the 2020 season opener. That’s the second-longest losing streak in NFL history. — Michael DiRocco


Years covered: 2018-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 29.3% (Rank: 26)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -2.9% (Rank: 20)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 23.4% (Rank: T-13)

Most notable fourth-down call: It was Week 11 of the 2021 regular season, and the Bears lead Baltimore 7-6 in the fourth quarter. Chicago was facing fourth-and-1 from their own 49-yard line. A comedy of errors ensued. First, the Bears sent the punt team on the field because Nagy’s headset went out. Next, the Bears called a frantic timeout to get organized. The offense went back on the field and a direct snap to running back David Montgomery in the Wildcat package went for no gain. The Bears also got a holding penalty on the play that the Ravens declined. The Bears are usually a mess on fourth down, and that Sunday was no different. Plus, the playcall itself was very suspect. It seems over the years in these situations the Bears fail and end up costing themselves wins. That botched sequence of events sums up the past three years in Chicago.— Jeff Dickerson


Years covered: 2020-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 32.5% (Rank: 29)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 3.2% (Rank: 6)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 27.5% (Rank: T-24)

Most notable fourth-down call: Washington faced a fourth-and-5 at the Carolina 43-yard line with 1:07 remaining in the first half and Carolina leading 14-7. With Carolina in man coverage, Washington used a bunch formation to the right. It led to some confusion in coverage for the Panthers, and quarterback Taylor Heinicke connected with wide-open WR DeAndre Carter on a crosser for an 18-yard gain. If Washington had failed, Carolina was in position to go up two scores entering the third quarter. Instead, Washington scored a tying touchdown. Its win probability went from 34.9% before the fourth-down play to 53.4% after the drive. — John Keim


Years covered: 2019-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 23.8% (Rank: 15)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -3.6% (Rank: 21)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 27.6% (Rank: 26)

Most notable fourth-down call: In the 2020 NFC Championship Game, after a failed third-down conversion at the Packers’ 45-yard line but still holding 14-10 lead, Arians originally sent the punt team out then called them back. “The clock was stopped and I said, ‘No, we’re going back out. We’ve got a good play. We’re going back out and trying to get some points,'” Arians said at the time, burning the final timeout. On fourth-and-4, quarterback Tom Brady found running back Leonard Fournette for a 6-yard gain. Then with 8 seconds left, Brady hit wide receiver Scotty Miller for a jaw-dropping 39-yard touchdown as time expired to make it 21-10 at the half. It served as a stark contrast to Packers coach Matt LaFleur opting for a field goal on fourth-and-8 at the Tampa Bay 8-yard line with 2:09 to go, which made it 31-26, ultimately the final score. As Arians said, “We didn’t come here to not take chances.” — Jenna Laine


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 25% (Rank: 19)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -7.5% (Rank: 25)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 26.8% (Rank: T-21)

Most notable fourth-down call: Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter against Arizona in Week 5, the Niners quickly drove deep into Cardinals territory with a chance to tie it up. But quarterback Trey Lance was stopped at the goal line on fourth-and-goal at Arizona’s 2-yard line. On the play, Lance took off for the right corner of the end zone but was greeted by multiple Cardinals and stopped just short. It was San Francisco’s first red zone trip of the season that didn’t result in a touchdown in a game the Niners would eventually lose by seven points. — Nick Wagoner


Years covered: 2020-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 31% (Rank: 28)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: 2.3% (Rank: 9)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 29.2% (Rank: 29)

Most notable fourth-down call: In Week 3 of this season, the Giants were trailing 7-6 and faced fourth-and-4 at the Atlanta 39-yard line in the third quarter. Judge decided to punt, which was a curious call for a team that was struggling to score points — especially with Graham Gano being a big-legged kicker who can hit from long range. It showed that Judge, more often than not, leans toward conservative playcalling and values field position more than the possibility for points. — Jordan Raanan


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 25.7% (Rank: 20)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -2.7% (Rank: 19)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 29.8% (Rank: 30)

Most notable fourth-down call: Trailing the Chiefs 21-17 in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on Jan. 20, 2019, there was 3:35 remaining in the fourth quarter with the ball on the Kansas City 10. New England running back Sony Michel took a handoff on fourth-and-1 and powered ahead for a 10-yard touchdown. The Patriots had all three timeouts, but the idea of playing for a field goal and defensive stop wasn’t on Belichick’s mind; the aggressive approach helped produce one of the most memorable wins in team history, because it came on the road in what was supposed to be a passing-of-the-torch type of game. The Patriots went on to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl. — Mike Reiss


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 28.3% (Rank: 24)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -12.5% (Rank: 29)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 28.7% (Rank: 27)

Most notable fourth-down call: In Week 5 of the 2018 season at the Seattle Seahawks, the Rams were clinging to a 33-31 with 1:38 to play and facing fourth down on their own 42-yard line. The Rams punt team took the field before the Seahawks called a timeout. After the timeout, McVay opted to send his offense onto the field to go for it. With running back Todd Gurley in the backfield, quarterback Jared Goff kept the ball for a 2-yard sneak. Goff jumped to his feet and pumped his fist before he took a knee for the final two plays to secure a two-point win over their division rival. McVay’s decision to go for it proved a trust in Goff and his offense to secure the game in a critical moment rather than opt to lean again on the defense. That vote of confidence from McVay, inside a hostile environment, proved critical as the Rams went on to win the NFC West that season and appear in Super Bowl LIII. — Lindsey Thiry


Years covered: 2021 (Weeks 6-12)
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 47.2% (Rank: 31)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -2% (Rank: 18)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 34.8% (Rank: 32)

Most notable fourth-down call: Already leading the Eagles 24-7 midway through the third quarter in Bisaccia’s home debut — his second game since replacing Jon Gruden — the Raiders faced fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Quarterback Derek Carr, out of the shotgun, fired a quick slant pass to WR Bryan Edwards coming left to right, and Edwards — bigger than a stereotypical slot receiver — hauled it in for the TD to put the game away. — Paul Gutierrez


Years covered: 2017-21
Win probability sacrificed on fourth-down errors: 33.1% (Rank: 30)
Difference in expected vs. actual fourth-down conversions: -8.3% (Rank: 26)
Non-obvious fourth-down error rate: 28.9% (Rank: 28)

Most notable fourth-down call: Trailing 14-0 to the Jaguars in the first quarter of the divisional playoffs in January 2018, the Steelers drove the field and were knocking on the door of the red zone. Back-to-back runs by Le’Veon Bell put the Steelers about six inches short of the first down. Even with such a short distance to gain, the Steelers, under the direction of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, ran a toss sweep to Bell that got blown up by cornerback Jalen Ramsey for a loss of four yards. The Jaguars scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive and put the Steelers in a 21-0 hole. Pittsburgh nearly climbed all the way back behind five touchdown throws from QB Ben Roethlisberger but ultimately exited the playoffs with a 45-42 loss. After another playoff trip without a Super Bowl berth, Mike Tomlin fired Haley in the days following the divisional loss. — Brooke Pryor

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