If a team fails to gain the required yardage on third down, several things could happen on fourth down:

  • A team can elect to “go for it” on fourth down and try to pick up the remaining yardage, but they run the risk of turning the ball over to the other team if they do not get to the first down marker. If they do not get the required yardage, the other team takes possession of the ball at the spot of the last tackle and now has four downs to move 10 yards in the other direction.
  • The majority of the time, teams will elect to punt the ball away on fourth down. A punt is simply a form of kicking the ball that gives possession of the ball to the other team, but also pushes them back considerably farther away from the end zone.
  • Another option is to kick a field goal. If a team feels they are close enough to kick the ball between the goal post in their opponent’s end zone, they may attempt a field goal, which is worth 3 points when converted successfully.