Photo: Rich Barnes - USA TODAY Sports

Bills win but my blood pressure skyrockets

Sean McDermott gets bailed out by his players

Howard Simon
December 10, 2017 - 7:18 pm
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I’ve never been angry after a Buffalo Bills win…until now. Angry doesn’t even come close to describing my emotion.

I was furious at Bills head coach Sean McDermott. From the moment he decided to punt in overtime on 4th and 1 at the Indianapolis 41-yard line right through the LeSean McCoy game-winning touchdown run, everything was just a blur. I completely lost focus on the game because I couldn’t believe what I had seen.

What I saw was one of the worst decisions a Bills coach has ever made in my 28 years of watching this franchise. I was so disgusted with that punt that I spent the Colts drive thinking, "it’ll serve you right if you lose this game." Yes, the Bills did end up winning what was a must-win game for them, but it did not stop me from seeing red and I don’t mean the Bills uniforms.

Believe me, I’m very happy they won. When the Colts converted what looked to be a go-ahead two-point conversion with a little more than a minute left in the fourth quarter, I was at rock bottom. I had just seen another season basically come to an end and the Bills playoff drought extended to 18 years. A penalty on the Colts wiped out the two points and led to them getting a long, and somewhat miraculous extra-point which tied the game and left the Bills' hopes alive.

You might be thinking, "Hey, they won the game, relax, it all worked out in the end." If you don’t understand why I feel this way, let me explain it to you. It's the mindset of a coach facing a critical decision and what he chooses to do. It's Doug Marrone punting in Miami in the fourth quarter when down two scores. It's Rex Ryan during last year's game with Miami. Punting in that spot to me was a coach being afraid to try and win. You have the ball and you know a touchdown wins the game for your team, but you decide to give the ball back to the opponent.  

After the game, McDermott said he did it because of field position and weather conditions. McDermott said he was confident his defense could stop the Colts and get the ball back, which they did. He’s lucky the Colts and his own players bailed him out. There was no guarantee his team would get the ball back. After all, his defense gave up a game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that lasted 19 plays, covered 77-yards and took 9:53 off the clock. Even if the Bills were to get the ball back, odds are they would be faced with a long field, a third string quarterback running the offense and conditions that would have made a field goal attempt really difficult.

If the decision to punt wasn’t bad enough, McDermott blew one of the two overtime timeouts before the Bills punted. That left him with just one timeout to use on defense when you need to save time should you get the ball back.

I’d like to bring up two other decisions McDermott made which also make that punt call puzzling at the very least. In the fourth quarter with a 7-0 lead and facing a 4th and 1 at their own 49-yard line, the offense lined up as if they were planning to go for it. But Vladimir Ducasse jumped early and after the penalty, the Bills punted. I was surprised they kept the offense out there on 4th down. I thought for sure McDermott would opt to punt and pin the Colts down since he had the lead.

After that tying touchdown drive by Indianapolis, the Bills had the ball at their own 25 with 1:16 left. I figured McDermott would stay with the running game and probably play for overtime. After all, the third string quarterback is running the offense on a day that was not very friendly to either teams passing game. But the Bills come out passing and Webb is picked off on 2nd down. The turnover put the Colts at the Bills' 28-yard line and in prime position to steal the win. How does McDermott go from aggressive decisions like that to punting in overtime?

There was a discussion on the WGR post-game show about whether or not McDermott knew the impact on the Bills' playoff chances should they end up tied. I absolutely believe he knew. In fact, I’m going to guess he figured a tie was better than a loss from one standpoint. He might have thought if (or when in his mind) his team runs the table, they end up 9-6-1, which means they beat out anyone who finishes at 9-7 in the wild card race. 

Thankfully, the Bills season remains alive with three games to go and as I said, I’m very happy about that. At the very least, beginning my draft prep work can wait another seven days. But it was a bad day in terms of my faith in McDermott. I disagreed with his decision to change quarterbacks for the Los Angeles Chargers game, but I wasn’t angry. This is different for me. It was one of those moments where you learn about your head coach. What does he do in a pressure packed moment and in that moment, McDermott didn’t go for the win which is very troubling.

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