Sean McDermott was thinking about Bills’ morale on field goal before halftime

AFC Championship - Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
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Bills coach Sean McDermott may realize, in hindsight, that he should have been more aggressive on fourth downs in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. But at the time, he thought he had to play it safe.

McDermott said today that he worried about going for it on fourth down with 11 seconds left in the first half and seeing his team get discouraged if they failed.

“The one before half I really felt like morale was a big piece to that,” McDermott said, via a transcript provided by the team. “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.”

On the Bills’ 27-yard field goal in the third quarter, which cut the Chiefs’ lead from 24-12 to 24-15, McDermott said he can understand the argument that he should have gone for it.

“Then after half, that’s the one that even now I’m still continuing to process through,” McDermott said. “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. I felt like we could get it to fourth-and-3 or fourth-and-2, I know for sure we would have went for it.”

Analytics research has consistently shown that coaches should go for it on fourth down more often than they do. McDermott said today that he’s “Always learning from those situations.” In the future, he may be a big more aggressive on fourth downs.

55 responses to “Sean McDermott was thinking about Bills’ morale on field goal before halftime

  1. and how soul crushing it would be going in the locker room settling for red zone field goals against a team that gets 12 yards every single offensive snap?

    Whoever came up with the defensive game plan should have talked to Sean before the game and let them know that the offense would need a touchdown every time they get the ball because we are going to be leaving Kelce wide open on every play.

  2. McDermott’s approach is not awful. But I would argue that when a coach is aggressive and goes for it and it fails, both the offense and defense raise their games because they are pumped to have a coach who believes in both sides of the ball.

  3. People blamed Reich for costing his team the game by not just kicking field goals instead of going for it. I would much rather lose a game because a coach believes in his players too much than not enough. Josh Allen singlehandedly won games all season long and played like a top 3 QB all season; your defense played well for a couple of games.

    You took the ball out of Josh’s hands, who got you here and trusted a defense who would have given up 50 pts if the Chiefs needed that many to win.

  4. Maybe – maybe- before halftime you get some extra points on the board to rally the guys at the half. But after that you have to go all in, especially because the defense couldn’t even slow down the Chiefs.

  5. Coaches, like players, tend to improve with experience. Hopefully McDermott learned from this and will make a better decision the next time.

  6. I think McDermott has done a great job over 4 years. But he signaled to his offense that they weren’t up to the challenge and he lack confidence in them. You can’t be conservative when behind in the AFC Championship game.

  7. We’re a nation of armchair quarterbacks (and coaches) after every game.

    When the Colts went for it in the same situation in the Bills game, Reich was 2nd guessed by almost every pundit after the game, who thought he should have taken the points.

    I agreed w/ the call at the end of the 1st half. It was important to get points there, and then regroup for the 2nd half.

  8. All season McDermott was VERY aggressive on 4th downs. Not sure why he changed that. I’m guessing if he had it to do over he would have gone for it more. Still a great season for the Bills, with a bright future! GO BILLS!!!

  9. Maybe he and LaFleur could get together and have a support group during the offseason.

  10. The Chiefs can put up points in a flash. You’re not not even going to hang with them, much less beat them, with field goals. You have to be as aggressive as they are.

  11. I think the biggest mistake was they didn’t run the ball enough. I am not a fan of Devin Singletary as a bell cow. T.J Yeldon and Isiah Mckenzie were making decent dents, along with Allen. Singletary can wiggle in space, but can’t go between the tackles.

    You can’t out pass KC from behind

  12. If your going up against the Chiefs and your defense is just above average, you better plan on having your offense score in the 30s. Field goals in the Red Zone won’t cut it. I think McDermott is an excellent coach and team leader, but he’s human, and in this case, I feel he made a mistake.

  13. Little rule of thumb, to take the (over)thinking out of it: If a field goal will do nothing to change the number of possessions needed to at least tie the opponent, you go for it

  14. The morale woulda been crap going into the locker room at half after getting stuffed in the red zone as time ran out in the half too.

    Everyone’s an expert, everyone knows what to do…

  15. Great winning teams play to win not hope not to lose coach like the Buccaneers scoring before the half. You win or go home, field gaols aren’t gonna get it done. The Cheifs score a lot of points also in case you missed the scouting report.

  16. This guy doesn’t sound like a head coach. That is all coordinators think. Lefluer and McDermott should not be head coaches making decisions the way they do.

  17. Morale at this stage of the season I don’t think so, I think he realized this was the big stage and it got to him

  18. Must have been thinking about the moral of a group of losers on the plane ride home.

    From a jets fan? How funny.

    Seemingly most mistakes McDermott has made, he’s learned from. This will be no different. I assume they know now that they need to improve on the o line and get a rb who can be the go to guy.

    I also can’t help but feel like they missed star on the interior of that d line. He’ll be back next year so that will help.

    This wasn’t a one year wonder. They are built to last but just need to tighten a few things up

  19. Happens all the time. So many NFL coaches are mainly worried about losing their jobs. “If we lose big, I’ll get fired. If we lose in a close game, I’m a good coach”. Both losing teams on Sunday have a bonehead for a coach.

  20. If you play KC, you have to figure you have to score 40 points to be competitive until the last :30 seconds. It’s not playing any other QB where you might get a couple pics and if you keep them under 24, you will probably win. KC beats Miami 33-27, they picked off Majomes 3 times and Miami was playing pretty good DEF at the time … that’s what it takes. AND that’s KC in the regular season where after 2 quarters, they generally just took it easy and ran plays to confuse opposing teas in the playoffs to hae to practice for.

  21. Keep doing what you’ve been doing, which is coach not to lose. We love it when you Bills lose. I’ve never trusted Leslie on defense and Allen when game’s on the line.

  22. Keep doing what you’ve been doing, which is coach not to lose. We love it when you Bills lose. I’ve never trusted Leslie on defense and Allen when game’s on the line. Only one question coach. Has Diggs demand in a trade yet?🐵🐵😀😃🤣🤣🤣

  23. ‘Thinking about morale’ is another way of saying I didn’t believe they’d convert…

    What do you think morale would have been if they went for it and scored? Less?

  24. Well coach, how did Rodgers morale look after his game, where his coach kicked a FG vs. going for it? Rodgers didn’t look like he was jumping for joy.
    The Bills Sunday were not the Bills of the previous weeks, due in most part to the poor game plans on both sides of the ball plus no sort of adjustment(s) during the game.

  25. Why are we still talking about this team? They were clearly out gunned on every level. Will have to wait another 50 years to see the playoffs.

  26. artvan15 says:
    January 26, 2021 at 12:41 pm
    This guy doesn’t sound like a head coach. That is all coordinators think. Lefluer and McDermott should not be head coaches making decisions the way they do.
    Yeah they both stink. One got his team to the NFCCG in back to back years and the other took a team that hadn’t sniffed an AFCCG in like 25 years. Buffalo fans think back over those 25 years and tell me you wouldn’t take an AFCCG appearance sprinkled into those every now and then.

  27. I can give him a pass for that strategy for the first half because they got out to the 9-0 lead and they took a field goal right before halftime with time running out. But the short FG with under 6 minutes in the 3rd trailing 24-12 was pretty much inexcusable.

  28. If team morale is that fragile, they were sledding uphill from the start.

    The AFCCG is not the time to play conservatively, it’s the time to show your team you trust them to get it done and to leave every ounce you have out on the field. My guess is that McDermott sees the error of this strategy and won’t play it this way in the future.

  29. Classic case of a younger coach overthinking it, same as Lafleur in GB. Get to the big game and have brain freeze. Both coaches needed to be more aggressive and let their horses run.

  30. Analytics indicate that 100% of the time, Sports Media highlights a counter-narrative, called “Monday Morning Quarterbacking.”

    Typically these are Coaching-decision criticisms that clearly have the benefit of hindsight.

    These insights are often made by nerd-for-life who posses no athletic ability whatsoever, never have succeeded on any field of play or faced time & situational pressure from opponents.

    Sorry, that sly move you made in pinochle against your Gramma last Friday night doesn’t count!!!

  31. Suddenly, I’m against ridiculing Harbaugh’s game plan against the Chiefs in 2019 of just go for two after every touchdown. They still ended up within 5 points of them and potentially 3 if you do get that last 2-pointer. Stop them and you have a chance to tie/win. The only way to beat these guys is with aggressiveness. No matter how idiotic it may seem, go for every fourth down. McDermott kinda waved the white flag on Saturday night. More than once.

  32. Whoever came up with the defensive game plan should have talked to Sean before the game and let them know that the offense would need a touchdown every time they get the ball because we are going to be leaving Kelce wide open on every play.

    The reason this is so funny is because it is so true. On Kelce’s touchdown it looked like the Bills coaches actually instructed their defense not to put anyone on him.

  33. When Joe Flacco was in the playoffs he never thought about the other team’s morale. Like a fighter in Mortal Kombat, he just ripped out the heart out of his opponents.

  34. The next time McDermott is in this position I’m confident he’ll be more aggressive. We’ve seen this before with younger coaches getting their first taste of playoff pressure, most tend to play not to lose. It’s a painful learning lesson.

  35. I obviously think that he is a good coach, but that was bad coaching in my mind. Playoff football, nothing to lose and everything to gain. It *might* be the worst excuse I have ever heard that you put the game on the line because you didn’t want your players to feel bad. And that is why you’re sitting at home.

    But you’ll be back. Take the lesson and learn from it. The best coaches don’t play it safe.

  36. Mike Tomlin’s ginger brother. Oh, my, let’s not do anything unorthodox and keep a job for 20 years.

  37. Sean McDermott certainly doesn’t owe me any explanations. I’ve been watching the Bills for many years, and he has them right up there with the best teams in the NFL. His QB is still very young, and not even close to his full potential. The other top teams might have hit their peaks, but I believe the Bills are still moving up. Whatever McDermott is doing, just keep on doing it. This is just the beginning.

  38. As a NY Giants fan, I remember when Head Coach Pat Shurmur kicked a field goal late in a game when doing so almost definitely loses the game right then and there. That is a different situation than what Sean McDermott did, which was cutting into a lead and extending the Bills’ time to get back into the game. Conservative? Yes. But it’s not like rolling over and conceding the game, which is what Shurmur’s decision was.

  39. The Chiefs imposed their will on the Bills, which is why they never really got much going. That team is stacked with talent, from top to bottom. You have to match scores with them to even have a shot, and it can’t be field goals.

  40. More then likely Bills still would have lost. Chiefs are a better team this year. But at least go down swinging!!!

  41. I guess if you take a word out of context from a sentence, but then put quotes around it in a headline, it all of a sudden carries special meaning.

  42. Not a bad plan when you’re consistently scoring and the defense is showing some type of resistance against the opposing offense.

    Not the case coach…

  43. He’ll learn. Remember when Andy Reid went from too cautious to bold? There’s time. It’s a rare coach that goes straight to Pederson-in-the-Super-Bowl levels of boldness.

    But yeah. Pro players shouldn’t have “morale” problems during a game. During a game it should be going for broke from start to finish. If they can’t stay motivated for 3 hours, that’s a problem. Morale should come from ultimate outcomes, and hopefully that’s how he will frame things going forward.

  44. Taking FGs vs the Chiefs is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. As long as Mahomes is healthy, the Bills have no chance vs KC. That doesn’t even take into account how much better Reid is than McDermott, as coach.

  45. Sean, really? Did you not watch any game film of the chiefs?

    * You need touchdowns to beat them.
    * Gruden made that same mistake in the Raiders loss.
    * Go conservative and you lose anyway.

    I appreciate the coaches that have the guts to go for it. Yeah, you won’t always get it, but PLAY TO WIN.

  46. The Chiefs were just the better team. It wasn’t McDermott’s fault. Mahomes, right now, is better than Allen. Allen might be the 4th best QB in the league, and still improving, but Mahomes is right at the top, and Mahomes has a lot of big game experience. So do the rest of the Chiefs. It’s funny. McDermott is getting criticized just like Andy Reid used to. Then Andy went out and got the best QB, and now Andy’s opponent is getting the same criticism. Lol. It’s the QB. Just like Tom Brady. Do you all think Bill Belichick suddenly forgot how to coach football? Remember, he was the undisputed GOAT. Well, Brady leaves and Belichick missed the playoffs completely. Now Bruce Arians is the GOAT? C’mon people. You’re kidding, right?

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