Have you ever been watching a football game and wondered what the term fourth and inches means? This football term is typically only used in crucial parts of a football game meaning it may not be the sort of thing you want to ask football fans about during the game.
Fourth and inches in football refers to the down and distance of the offensive team. The term “fourth” refers to this being the fourth down, this means that this is the teams fourth attempt to gain the ten yards required for a first down.
The term “inches” refers to how much further the offense needs to move the ball in order to get a first down.
Since it is fourth inches this is a team’s fourth down and they only need a few inches to get a first down.
In most cases, the amount of distance needed to get a first down is measured in yards. So when you see first and ten or second and five those numbers refer to ten yards and five yards.
Once the ball is closer than one yard from a first down they will simply say that the ball is “inches” away from a first down.
To get a full understanding of fourth and inches you must understand the down system in football. In short, each team will get four attempts to move the ball ten yards. Each of these attempts is referred to as a down.
If they are able to move the ball ten yards forward then the team will be given a new set of downs. This means they will start again on first down and try and move the ball another ten yards in order to get another first down.
If they are unable to get ten yards in their four downs then the other team will take possession of the ball at the location the last play was downed. This is called a turnover on downs.
For this reason, teams will often choose to punt the ball to the other team on fourth down. This gives the other team possession of the ball but since the ball was punted they will start with the ball much closer to their own end zone.
What Happens On Fourth And Inches?
So we know that fourth and inches refers to it being fourth down and the first down being inches away. But what exactly happens on fourth and inches?
Below we will break down all possible outcomes when a team is faced with a fourth and inches situation.
Go For It
The most exciting option when presented with a four and inches situation is to go for it. This means the offense will stay on the field and attempt to get the first down via passing or running the ball.
Since there is only inches to gain these plays are successful the majority of the time. But because it is fourth down a failed attempt at getting the first down means your opponent is going to get the ball at your location.
This is why the location of the ball at the time of a fourth and inches is so important. If you are near the other team’s end zone you will be much more comfortable attempting a fourth and inches play.
Because if it fails your opponents will get the ball far away from your endzone. While going for a fourth and inches play near your own endzone is risky because if failed your opponent will start with the ball in a scoring position.
If a team decides to go for it on fourth and inches the team will either convert it and get another first down or come up short which gives the other team the ball.
Punting the ball is another popular option used in fourth and inches situations. As we stated earlier a punt is going to move the ball far down the field so your opponent does not start close to your endzone.
Though if you choose this option you have accepted that you will not get the first down and will give the other team the ball.
Punting on fourth and inches can be a controversial call depending on where you are on the field. If near your own endzone this is likely the smart call and will be accepted by the fans.
But if you are around midfield and decide to punt on a fourth and inches the fans may find that cowardly as these plays are converted the majority of the time.
Field Goal Attempt
Another outcome of a fourth and inches situation is a field goal attempt. This option is mostly based on where the team is on the field.
In order to score a field goal a team will usually have to be within the opposing team’s fourty yard line.
On a field goal attempt, a successful field goal will earn your team three points and a failed attempt will give the other team possession of the ball at your location.
Similar to punts, choosing to kick a field goal on fourth and inches can be seen as a cowardly move by the fans. In many cases a team will decide to go for it on a fourth and inches attempt even if they are in field goal range.