Should the Rams be more aggressive on 4th down?

Let me set up the situation for you. It's the middle of the first quarter, and  the St. Louis Rams have the ball back after the defense picked up its second turnover of the game, which is still tied with no score.

The fumble, forced by Will Witherspoon and receovered by James Laurinaitis, gave the Rams their best field position so far, at the Seattle 38-yard-line. On two prior drives, the Rams never made it across the 50. The resulting drive is looking just like the last two. An incomplete on first down, and an 8-yard run by Jackson is wiped out thanks to a Donnie Avery 10-yard holding penalty. 2nd-and-12; the Rams get five freebie yards thanks to an Aaron Curry offsides.

That's followed by more keystone kops routine. An incomplete pass, and then a fumble recovered by Bulger and thrown away for an imcomplete. 4th-and-7 on the Seattle 35-yard-line. The Rams punted it down to the 4-yard-line, showing off Donnie Jones' stellar leg, but was that the best call?

I'm inclined to think it was not. This study from Advanced NFL Stats breaks down the recommended options on 4th downs, and the Rams, in that situation, were right between going for it and kicking a field goal.

Going for it might have been a little bit of a problem, since the Rams offense was not exactly in prime form. (Had they run the ball more than once on that drive, that might not have been the case). Had I made the call, I would have brought the field goal team out to make the score 3-0.

That's risky, since it would have been a 52-yard attempt. Before you point to Brown's missed 37-yarder, remember that was later in the game. Josh Brown is no stranger to kicking field goals at Qwest Field, and has nailed his share of long ones there too. He hit a 43-yarder there last season, his first with the Rams, and in 2007 he nailed a 52-yarder against the Saints. The week after that, he hit 48-,45- and 43-yard three pointers to help bury the Rams. Over his career, Brown is 19-for-30 on FGs of 50 yards or more.

Hitting a FG there wouldn't have been a sure thing, but even if it hadn't worked, the defense was still playing sharp enough that keeping Seattle out of the end zone after turning the ball over at their 35-yard-line was not such a daunting task at that point.

Teams like the Rams have to play more aggressive football, and that means squeezing every chance they can out of every down, including 4th. They'll need to be against Washington this week.

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