4th and Long in Football

What does it mean when a commentator says it is “4th and long” when you are watching a football game? It’s pretty simple. Check out below for both what it means during the game and how you could use this football phrase in your everyday life.fourth and long in football

Football concept: 4th and Long

Let’s start with the basics. The offense has 4 plays (aka downs) to progress 10 yards and start the ‘downs’ over or score.  If they have not done so in the first 3 downs, then it is 4th down. Typically, an announcer will say they are 4th and Long if there is anything more than 5 yards left to gain.



On fourth down, regardless of where the offense is, a decision must be made. Sometimes this decision is super easy and sometimes not so much.  Sometimes, even though they have a long distance to go and the probability of success is slim, the team may consider attempting to gain a first down. This would typically occur if  (1) they are too close to punt the ball but too far to make a field goal (rarely happens now that kickers can kick such long field goals) or (2) the time left in the game is running out and they are behind and need to try. This is when they go for it (see Go For It) and hope for the best!

How the saying can be used in real life:

The phrase “4th and Long” can be used when you are up against a difficult obstacle with low odds of a successful outcome and a decision on which path to take must be made.

So, for example, you could use this when your spouse wants to go to their parents for the holidays and you were hoping for a trip to an exotic island for just the two of you. You are facing fourth and long at this point so you have to decide if you want to ‘go for it’ and suffer all the repercussions of a failed attempt or if you want to do the ‘safe’ thing and just punt on your idea of the exotic holiday and hang with the in-laws.

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