The Jets were trailing the Steelers by 11 points with 7:36 to play in the fourth quarter when they faced a fourth-and-two from their own 46-yard-line, leaving head coach Todd Bowles with a decision.
Bowles could punt and hope his defense got the ball back quickly or he could go for it on fourth down. Bowles opted to punt, the Steelers drove for nearly six minutes on the way to a touchdown catch by wide receiver Sammie Coates that put the finishing touches on the scoring in the 31-13 Pittsburgh victory.
” I don’t think it was a mistake,” Bowles said. “We were getting three-and-outs before that. I thought we’d get off the field. … If it was the same situation again, I’d probably punt it. You can talk hypothetically after you lose a ball game, it doesn’t help anyone. I still stand by that decision.”
Here’s the thing, though. The Jets weren’t getting three-and-outs before that. The Steelers drove into the red zone on their previous drive before Sheldon Richardson forced a Ben Roethlisberger fumble and they’d gone 80 yards in nine plays on a touchdown drive immediately before that. There were two three-and-outs earlier in the third quarter, although one of them ended with a field goal because a long Antonio Brown punt return flipped the field.
It certainly isn’t a sure thing that the Jets would have converted on fourth down, but betting on stopping a Steelers offense that moved the ball more often than not didn’t come with great odds. Bowles said it all fell on him later in his press conference, something that will lead to a lot more weight on his shoulders if future bets work out as well as this one did.