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Frank Reich’s ‘aggressive’ fourth-down style is part of analytical approach – Indianapolis Colts Blog



INDIANAPOLIS — At some point Friday — like he does every Friday — Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich will meet with his team’s two analytics pros, John Park and George Li, to go over the playcall sheet for their game against the Houston Texans on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

The call sheet will include every imaginable scenario to make sure the Colts are prepared for any and everything thrown their way.

First down. Second down. Third down. Fourth down. The expected point total for the game. The type of offense they’re facing? They’ll even look at the weather conditions if they’re playing outdoors.

“Really, they are quite sophisticated, quite complex and run off of literally millions of iterations,” Reich said. “So I factor all that in, because that’s factored all into the charts and we talk about that. So those go into those calls as well.”

What’s in the spotlight — again — for Reich is his frame of mind when it comes to situational fourth-down calls. You shouldn’t expect Reich and his staff to deviate from their aggressive thoughts when it comes to fourth down, even if they’re put in the same scenario they were in against the Texans in their Week 4 overtime loss, and even after they went 0-of-3 on fourth down against the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend.

The Colts are only 6-of-14 on fourth-down attempts this season. Their 42.9 percent conversion rate is tied for 27th in the NFL.

“I think what most people — not everyone — would agree, who use the analytics, is that what the analytics tell us is that historical coaching philosophy has been a little bit conservative and that there are reasons to consider being more aggressive,” Reich said. “Then you have to have maturity and wisdom to interpret the chart the way that you think is best for your team. That’s the art of it. That’s what the head coach gets paid to do. That’s what you take responsibility for. That’s what you take accountability for, because no matter what the charts says, it’s still my decision at the end of the game. If it turns out that we lost, then that’s my responsibility. If it turns out positive — great, good for our team.”

Reich first drew eyes on his aggressive playcalling when the Colts had the ball at fourth-and-4 from their own 43-yard line when quarterback Andrew Luck‘s throw landed at receiver Chester Rogers‘ feet, giving Houston a short field to work with to win the game in overtime on Sept. 30.

“I was thinking we had to get a stop,” Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said when asked his reaction on the Colts going for it on fourth down. “We had been 0-3 and trying to get a win any way we could, and we found a way. It wasn’t conventional. It was a wild game with a lot going on, but we found a way and that’s all that matters.”

Reich said at the time he would do it again, with the only exception being he wouldn’t have called a timeout before going for it on fourth down.

The first-year coach’s aggressive play didn’t work in the Colts’ 6-0 loss to the Jaguars. The Colts were given a fresh set of downs following a Jacksonville penalty on an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the first half. The Colts took the points off the board, but they were later stuffed at the goal line on fourth down when Jaguars defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue tackled Colts running back Jordan Wilkins after he took a shovel pass from Luck. Reich credited the Jaguars for outcoaching him there because “they played a coverage that they had not shown in that situation and it’s not that we didn’t have an answer for it.”

Reich didn’t shy away from his approach on the following series when they went for it on fourth-and-1 from Jacksonville’s 31-yard line. They ran a “high risk-reward” play with tight end Eric Ebron on a jet sweep. The play never developed because Ebron was hit behind the line and he also fumbled the ball away.

The final failed attempt came late in the fourth quarter when Luck was sacked as the Colts were trying to get a touchdown to win the game.

“I had envisioned that play into breaking out — not just a first down but possibly a 20- or 30-yard gain,” Reich said of the Ebron play. “We had a half yard to go. If I had those three to look at over again, that would be the one that I would question myself the most on. Just run it up the middle. We had half a yard; run a quarterback sneak or just run a dive play up the middle and get the half yard. I took the risk for the big play and I was wrong.”

Reich, as he did back in October, had no regrets about his decision to go for it on fourth down, and he’ll likely continue to have that mentality going forward.

“Look, I’m with it,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said this week on WFNI-1070 AM. “We have a team of analytics here that do an excellent job, and I’m good with Frank being aggressive on fourth down. He puts a lot of trust and faith to execute; unfortunately, this last weekend we just didn’t execute. But there’s been other times in the season where we have.”

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Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph defends kicking field goal on fourth-and-1 vs. Cleveland Browns — ‘I wanted points there’



DENVER — The Denver Broncos went with math over a gut feel Saturday night, and many of their faithful left the 17-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns talking about a fourth-and-1 on which the team didn’t go for it in the closing minutes as the Broncos dropped to 6-8 and the brink of postseason elimination.

With 4 minutes, 39 seconds remaining, trailing 17-13 and with a fourth-and-1 on the Cleveland 6-yard line, Broncos coach Vance Joseph sent kicker Brandon McManus out for a field goal as boos cascaded down from the stands.

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It wasn’t pretty, but for at least one more night, the Browns are still in the playoff hunt – Cleveland Browns Blog



DENVER – The Cleveland Browns don’t care how it happened, they just care that it did.

When Jabrill Peppers sacked Case Keenum on fourth down with the Broncos at midfield and down one, the visiting sideline erupted.

The Browns somehow had slogged through for a 17-16 win, their fourth in five games.

And they had somehow kept their flickering playoff hopes alive.

It was a struggle — for both teams, but the Browns now hope for help on Sunday and point to Cincinnati in a home game on Dec. 23. The team is 4-2 with Gregg Williams as interim coach and Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator.

The Browns got a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield and some big runs from Nick Chubb as they beat the Broncos for the first time since 1990.

Mayfield was nowhere near as effective as he had been the previous four games, but when it mattered most he came through. After a T.J. Carrie fourth quarter interception, Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry for 12, Rashard Higgins for 16, Landry for six and then found Antonio Callaway for the touchdown that provided the winning points.

Denver would get a field goal to cut the lead to one, but Chubb broke a 40-yard run and the Browns were able to keep the ball until 1:49 remained.

Keenum got the Broncos to the 50, but a spike and two incomplete passes led to the fourth-and-10, when the Browns called blitz and Peppers came through up the middle to end the game.

Mayfield started strong, throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman on the Browns first possession. He finished 18-for-31 for 188 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and a lost fumble.

It wasn’t a spectacular effort.

But it was a winning effort, and a Browns team that had won four games in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons combined has won four of five to keep the postseason in view. At 6-7-1, the Browns trail five seven-win teams in the standings. If the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans all win Sunday, Cleveland would be eliminated from the race. But, still, at least for Saturday night, the Browns are still alive.

That’s not a prediction many would have made when the Browns fell to 2-6-1 after Williams’ first game, or even before the season.

But that’s where the Browns are.

Believe it or not.

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Von Miller eclipses Simon Fletcher as Broncos’ all-time sacks leader



DENVER — Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller has always said he considers the most important part of his job is “getting sacks and making game-changing plays,” and he has now done that more than any other player in franchise history.

When Miller launched himself through the Cleveland Browns‘ offensive line on the last play of the third quarter Saturday night and pulled quarterback Baker Mayfield to the ground, he had his 98th career sack.

Miller passed Broncos Ring of Famer Simon Fletcher, who finished his career with 97.5 sacks.

The play came at an opportune time for the Broncos, as the Browns had driven into Denver territory against a Broncos defense depleted at cornerback by injury and Jamar Taylor‘s ejection. The sack also gave Miller 14.5 for the season, the second-highest single-season total of his career.

His career high is 18.5 in 2012.

Miller was asked this past week if he thinks about awards and records down the road.

“I don’t really,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t. The thing about getting sacks, the sack race is so close right now. I’m three sacks away from [Rams defensive tackle] Aaron Donald, and the next guy behind me is just a sack away. So, it’s a tight race and every sack could mean the difference. That’s where my mindset is at right now.”

The Browns beat the Broncos 17-16.

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