The Buffalo Bills head coach deserves credit for helping build the franchise into AFC contenders in his four seasons with the team. But Sunday was not his finest moment as he twice played it safe against the most dangerous offense in football.
On Tuesday, he explained his reasoning in a season-ending news conference with beat reporters. He has second thoughts. But he also has his reasons for not going for a touchdown on fourth down.
First FG was for ‘morale’
The first questionable decision arrived at the end of the first half with the Bills trailing, 21-9. Buffalo faced fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line with 11 seconds remaining. McDermott opted to kick a field goal instead of going for a short touchdown that would have cut Kansas City’s lead to one possession.
Here’s his explanation for the decision after a couple of days to reflect:
“The one before half, I really felt like morale was a big piece to that,” McDermott told reporters. “They had momentum, they were getting the ball after half as well, and I felt like we needed to come away with points at that one.
“Even though sometimes analytics may say one thing, whether it said it or not on our chart, I think there’s a human element to the game at the end of the day, and I felt like we needed to come away with points.”
The Bills came away with three points that cut their deficit to nine and ultimately had no impact on the game.
‘Maybe I should’ve gone for it’
The Bills faced a similar situation in the third quarter, this time trailing 24-12 on fourth-and-3 at the Kansas City 8-yard line. Again, Buffalo opted for a field goal. Kansas City responded with a quick touchdown to extend its lead to 31-15, effectively ending the game.
“That’s the one that even now I’m still continuing to process through,” McDermott continued. “On one hand we were 2 for 8 at halftime on third downs and we were struggling somewhat on third down. I felt like I think it was a 12-point lead at the time we could get it to nine.
“That would change what we needed from two scores to a score and a half however you want to say that in your verbiage. That’s still the one that, being very open with you, I still think about. Maybe I should’ve gone for it.”
The analytics said he should’ve gone for it. So did the common knowledge that you’re not going to beat the Chiefs at that point by kicking field goals.
Alas, McDermott will have the entire offseason to ponder things. Maybe next time he’ll roll the dice.
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