KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WROC) — All year, things were different in Buffalo. Josh Allen was throwing the ball like an MVP-candidate. Brian Daboll was crafting up brilliant game plans. The team swept the division on the way to an AFC East title. And Sean McDermott was aggressive on fourth down.
But the strengths of the team throughout the season failed them on Sunday night, including McDermott’s decision-making.
During the season, according to Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, Sean McDermott was the third-most accurate coach in deciding whether or not he should go for it on fourth down. This is based on an analytics formula that Baldwin uses to grade decisions based on win percentage.
Things started well for McDermott. He went for it on fourth and one at midfield and converted for a first down. That drive led to a field goal and the first points of the game.
But at the end of the first half, the Bills’ head coach changed course. Facing fourth and goal at the two-yard line down 21-9, McDermott decided to kick a field goal to make it a 21-12 game going into halftime.
The Chiefs started off the second half with a field goal to go up 24-12, then McDermott was faced with another decision. On fourth and three at Chiefs’ eight-yard line, McDermott decided to kick another field goal.
It put the Bills within nine points, but that was as close as they would get. The Chiefs scored a touchdown, Josh Allen threw an interception, and the Chiefs scored again to ice the game and head back to the Super Bowl.
After the game, McDermott explained his thought process.
“I thought about going for it in both occasions, really. Maybe if I had to do it all over again I would have went for maybe one of them,” said McDermott. “But the one before the half for sure I wanted to get points. We were having trouble coming up with points and I wanted something to show for coming into half. Especially knowing they were getting the ball after half.”
“I’ll look back at that and re-evaluate that, especially the one after the half. As an entire team, we’ll learn from this experience,” said McDermott.
Allen didn’t question his coach’s decision-making, instead putting the blame on himself as he often does.
“That’s coach’s decision,” Allen said. “We had three downs to get in there prior and we didn’t do our job. Lack of communication, lack of execution down there falls on my shoulders.”
It’s difficult to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. It’s even more difficult when you don’t take advantage of every opportunity you’re given.
Would the Bills have won if they would have converted both of those fourth down? Maybe, but probably not.
Either way, Bills fans will be left wondering about those decisions all summer— and if their coach will make different decisions next postseason.