Bills coach Sean McDermott decided to hinge his team’s chances of beating the Titans on “Monday Night Football” on a play that ultimately didn’t work out for visiting Buffalo.
That play came with 22 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, when the Bills — trailing 34-31 — elected to go for it on fourth-and-inches from the Tennessee 3. Even if the Bills didn’t get into the end zone, a conversion would have given them a fresh set of downs and two or three more attempts for a go-ahead score.
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So McDermott played for the win instead of the game-extending field goal. Unfortunately for the Bills, it appeared as if quarterback Josh Allen slipped on his attempt. He was also met by Titans lineman Jeffrey Simmons, who perfectly shot the gap to stuff Allen.
One play later, a kneel-down by the Titans sealed their victory, which featured a “Monday Night Football”-record seven lead changes.
McDermott, in explaining his decision after the game, said he thought his team could go for the win then and there:
“Most quarterback sneaks are, there’s a feel or a read element involved,” McDermott said. “And Josh is usually spot on with those. You’ve seen him have a lot of success in those situations.”
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The play obviously didn’t produce positive results for the visiting team, but it made sense in the moment. As ESPN’s Ed Werder noted, Allen was 13 of 14 on conversion attempts of fourth-and-1 or shorter prior to the game-sealing play. That’s more than any other player since 2018, ahead of second-place Lamar Jackson and Ezekiel Elliott, who have 10 each.
To that end, McDermott said he would “take Josh Allen 10 times out of 10” and that he’s “always going to believe in my players and coaches.”
Still, McDermott acknowledged he didn’t want to put the game, potentially, in the hands of his defense. The Titans scored on six of their final eight drives following a Ryan Tannehill interception in the first half. Those two drives that didn’t end in scores instead ended the half and the game.
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The reason Simmons was able to time the play and tackle Allen short: something that happened on a similar play earlier in the game, also near the goal line. On that play, Allen took the ball and, instead of following his center on the sneak, went left and took a big hit.
Simmons confirmed after the game that the Titans knew Allen would attempt to sneak.
The Bills were put in that situation because of the previous play. Allen scrambled on third-and-6 for 5 yards, leaping for the line to gain. Officials appeared to rule the play a first down before reversing the call. Replay shows the reversal was correct:
That forced McDermott into the decision that ultimately backfired for his team.
“Again, give them the credit.” McDermott said. “They made the play when they had to make one.”