Mike Shanahan: Fourth-down call was ‘gut feel’

Mike Shanahan made a gutsy call on Sunday when the Redskins were down 21-13 and facing fourth-and-3 from the Arizona 18-yard line with 5:23 left. The coach elected to go for it rather than take three points and count on his defense to get the ball back.

It ended up being the right call as Rex Grossman completed a touchdown pass to Santana Moss. Washington failed on the two-point conversion, but then got the ball back thanks to a strong defensive stand and took a 22-21 lead on a 34-yard Graham Gano field goal.

Shanahan said going for it on fourth down never came under much debate during the game. During the week, the coach examines all kinds of scenarios and percentages of success and failure. But during games, he rarely goes back to those statistics.

“For me, it’s normally a gut feel,” Shanahan said. “Some people kick a field goal, other people go for it. I just felt at that time of the game, we needed to score a touchdown. Percentages were with us at that down and distance.”

Shanahan added, “You go through all of [the scenarios] – when you’re backed up, if you go for it on fourth-and-1, if you go for it on fourth-and-2, you go for it on the two-yard line, the one-yard line, field goal. Yeah, you go through all those stats, but ultimately, it comes down to a gut feel.”

Shanahan said more times than not, he gambles rather than make the safe pick.

“I normally lean to the other side. Not very conservative. I usually take chances,” the coach said. “That’s usually my mindset. But it also depends on the tempo of the game, what type of team you’re facing, how good’s the defense, how’s the running game going. A lot of variables go into something like that.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.

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