It’s Fourth Down. Why Going for It Could Determine the Super Bowl

Executing fourth downs, and defending against them, has already helped take the Eagles, Jaguars and the Patriots to their conference championship games

Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount scored on a fourth-down run against the Falcons in a NFC Divisional playoff game. PHOTO: SZENES/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

By Michael Salfino and Andrew Beaton

The New England Patriots know they have to be ready for it. At this point, it’s not a surprise. They even have a name for it: “Cuatro Situation.”

It’s when “third down is not really third down,” New England safety Devin McCourty said. They know the opposing team will likely go for it on fourth down. “We’ve got to be prepared for a play that might gain a couple of yards, but not maybe a first down, but get them close enough to the stick,” McCourty added.

More than ever, how teams behave on fourth down may decide who advances to the Super Bowl. Executing fourth downs, and defending against them, has already helped take the Eagles, Jaguars and Patriots to their conference championship games. The Vikings will be tasked with Philadelphia’s aggressiveness for the NFC title while Jacksonville and New England play for the AFC crown.

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