The Bills blew their shot at a win with a bungled fourth-down call, but it was still the right decision
- The Bills failed to convert on fourth-and-inches with the game on the line against the Titans.
- Despite losing the game, the Bills made the right call in a difficult spot.
The Buffalo Bills faced a tough decision in the waning seconds of Monday night's game against the Tennessee Titans.
Trailing 34-31, the Bills had the ball inside the Titans' 5-yard line, facing a fourth-and-1 that was close to fourth-and-inches with just 22 seconds left on the clock.
The Bills could settle for a field goal and play on into overtime, or they could go for the conversion, risking the potential of coming up short. However, going for it would have given them the advantage of potentially winning in regulation, rather than letting the overtime coin toss dictate half the outcome of the extra period.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott decided to roll the dice, sending his offense back out onto the field. Quarterback Josh Allen took the snap from under center, dove behind his line, and attempted to push forward on a QB sneak.
Unfortunately for the Bills, Allen stumbled on his push, falling short of the first down. The Titans took over possession and downed the game away.
-NFL (@NFL) October 19, 2021
The Bills' failure to convert on fourth down opened the door for doubters to question the initial decision to go for the win. Buffalo had moved the ball well all game and would likely be favored in the extra period - why risk losing on one play?
But while it's easy to call out the decision in retrospect, the Bills made the right call, even if it didn't work out.
According to ESPN's Seth Walder, the company's win probability model agreed that going for the conversion gave the Bills a better shot at winning.
Other win probability models from across the NFL internet showed similar results.
-Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) October 19, 2021
Strictly from a numbers perspective, the Bills made the right decision.
Additionally, from a gamesmanship perspective, going for it was clearly the play. As a general rule in the NFL, it's usually best to do what your opponent's fans are hoping you won't. There's not a Titans fan in Tennessee that was happy to see the Bills offense back out on the field.
After the game, McDermott made his case relatively simple: his team had the chance to win the game, and he took it.
"Josh is usually spot on with those, you've seen him have a lot of success in those situations," McDermott said. "… (I) felt, hey, if we're that far from potentially winning the game right there, it was the best thing we could do. We hadn't stopped them on defense for a number of drives there in the second half, really. Felt like we could go and win the game right there."
Years ago, McDermott's call might have been viewed as extraordinarily bold given the circumstance. But with offenses going for it on fourth down at record-setting rates this year, and with more football fans engaging with the analytics behind decisions like the one the Bills faced on Monday night, McDermott's call was hardly shocking.
It was the right call. It just didn't work out. That's football.
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