Thursday, December 3, 2009

Football Strategic Concepts: Four Drives (Two Touchdowns)

Four Drives is a goal-setting philosophy on offense with the goal to end no less than four drives in a game with a score, no less than two of which are touchdowns. The average NFL team scores between 14 and 28 points per game, and most final scores fall into that territory. College scores can vary more wildly, but in general engineering four scoring drives gives you a significant chance of winning. Assuming extra points are made, Four Drives should get you to at least 20 points and give you a sizable non-zero chance of winning if your team manages no other miscellaneous scores.

Part of the idea is to run time off the clock, rest your defense and wear down the opposing defense with a drive. Even if a lengthy drive ends in a field goal, by moving the football against the other defense, you establish momentum that your opponent now has to work against.

Because of the focus on working the clock and wearing the defense, my definition of what constitutes a drive is a bit more stringent. Technically, if you recover a turnover on your opponent's 30 yard line or run a kick into opposing territory, run three ineffective downs and kick a field goal, that's a drive.

But such a possession does not count as a drive under Four Drives. It does not work the clock, puts your defense back on the field quickly and though it ends in a score, it ends in a cheap score, a field goal, after a golden opportunity in the form of a turnover in opposing territory. Turnovers by opponents in their own end should generally lead to touchdowns.

Therefore, a possession only counts as a drive under Four Drives if it A) begins in your own territory or B) a drive starting in opposing territory required at least one first down and ends with a touchdown. Notice with each of those qualifiers that your team must pass at least one first down marker, if not several, during the course of a drive, whether or not they actually net one or more first downs (if they score a long touchdown, then great, but for all those other times you'll need to gain first downs).

(To clarify requirement B, this only means that the drive does not begin with a 1st and Goal situation, as a 1st and Goal drive is clearly short and while trying, will not wear the defense since no more than 3-4 plays will be run. The drive needs to begin with the first down marker being outside of the goal line, requiring that you drive at least 10-11 yards to score.)

Also, Four Drives does not include pick sixes, kick return touchdowns or fumbles run back for a touchdown. Consider these bonus scores, but you still need to engineer your Four Drives. In the event that you somehow rattle off so many turnover scores that you don't have time to feasibly run four qualifying drives in a four quarter game, consider yourself very lucky: You're probably destroying your opponent and the game is essentially over. Thank your stars, put in the backups and kill the clock.

If you engineer four scoring drives per the Four Drives definitions, and you avoid making any more than a couple turnovers, you will probably win the majority of your football games, almost regardless of how your defense plays. It is impossible to run four scoring drives under these terms and not have a fair share of time of possession, or have allowed more than 30-35 points: The other offense simply won't have as much time to engineer drives of their own, plus will be under pressure to produce if their early drives stall and your drives don't and could press into mistakes or hurry up football that gets the ball back in your hands more quickly and gives you another chance to eat the clock and wear out their defense with another drive.

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