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Bills Notebook: Sean McDermott (sort of) explains punt, Matt Milano named starter

Sean McDermott offered up a response any filibustering U.S. Senator would be proud of Monday when asked about his decision to punt in overtime Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

To review, the details were as such: The Bills faced a fourth and 1 on the Colts' 41-yard line with 4:13 remaining in overtime. After taking a timeout to talk it over with his staff, McDermott elected to punt. The Bills eventually got the ball back and scored the winning touchdown.

"Well look, those are hard situations," McDermott said Monday. "You know, those are challengings situations. The decisions that I have to make as a head coach. Yesterday, look, it worked yesterday, right? To our benefit. When you look at those type of equations, there's a lot of different variables that go into making those decisions. It's never just one thing or another."

McDermott was just getting started in his explanation.

"So field position felt like, when you look at how the game was trending with both offenses trying to come out from the shadows of their own goal posts in times leading up to that point in the game," he said. "You look at where we were on the field, and how overtime works with points and deciding a game. A lot of things that went into that decision. In this case, it worked out, and I would do it again.

"But understand this, every situation's different. No two situations are exactly the same, so I felt confident that we could get the ball back with four minutes and change to go. We talked about it. Wanted to make sure we used a timeout to talk about it, because I knew it was a pivotal point in the game."

McDermott called those "good discussions," and added that even though the Bills won, "we continue to learn and focus on the process of growing from it even though it worked out this time."

"So that if you say, 'hey, what if this variable is different, would we do something differently? would I do something differently? So those are all good valuable lessons for us and we'll continue to move forward with that and grow," he said. "That was a great, I thought, situational game yesterday when you look at, when we took the field, what the conditions were, and then when we ended the game, what the conditions were. And I go back to our preparation as a staff, the way the players prepared during the week, we were in some of those situations during the week. And we had a plan going into the game of how we wanted to play the game. We did a good job of handling those situations."

A tie would have reduced the Bills' already small playoff odds to microscopic.

"Well you look at it, you're saying, there is three possible results: A tie, a loss or a win. I've been in those situations before where you want to win the game," he said. "Once in Philadelphia, once in Carolina, we ended up with a tie. That tied ended up helping us later on down the road in the season in terms of where we were trying to get to. So you'd rather it be a win and certainly those ties happen once in a while in overtime games."

McDermott was then asked if he was aware of what a tie would have meant to the Bills' playoff chances.

"Those are all part of the variables that I take into consideration," he said. "That's all the computation that's going on in my mind. Whether it's this situation or another situation, I'm trying to go from big picture to very, very minute details as quickly as you can. In a span of what, 15 seconds?"

That's why McDermott used a timeout before punting.

"Just wanted to take our time and think about it," he said. "Talk about it as a staff and make sure that it was the right thing that we felt good about, that I felt good about. That was a pivotal point in the game, so I wasn't about to rush the decision, because I did know how important that decision would be."

Laster in his press conference, McDermott was asked if he paid attention to the playoff scenarios surrounding his team.

"No," he said. "I mean, we're focused on moving forward and the Miami Dolphins. We have a good Miami Dolphins team coming in here. That's beaten this team twice last year, last season, so we'll have our work cut out for us and that's what we need to move forward on to and improve in what we do as well."

Of course, to know what a tie would have meant to the Bills' playoff chances means McDermott had to have know what the playoff scenarios were Sunday.

"When you're within that game, right, you do," he said. I was "asked afterwards, have I looked since then. I haven't since that time."


The Bills have made a change to their defensive, elevating rookie linebacker Matt Milano to the first team in place of Ramon Humber. Milano led the Bills with 11 tackles against the Colts.

"He did a terrific job," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "We plan on, barring anything happening this week in practice, him starting again against our next opponent, Miami. "


McDermott did not have an update on the status of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who left Sunday's win after aggravating a right knee injury.

"Still too early to tell right now," McDermott said. "He’s being evaluated as we speak."

Benjamin led the Bills with three catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. He missed the previous two games after tearing the meniscus in his right knee against the Chargers in Week 11.


McDermott had high praise for the staff at New Era Field.

The "game ball really needs to go the everyone, all the staff involved in getting that building ready to play," he said. "Then, to keep that thing playable through that snowstorm yesterday, can’t say enough about the hard work that went into that and the teamwork."

The snow was so heavy that the coaches in the booth weren't able to get to the locker room the way they usually do, which is by golf cart. That created what had to have been a funny scene.

"We had to go through the concourse with all the fans," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. "It was a rough deal, because the golf carts couldn’t go. ... I missed the kickoff and the first play of the defense because we were kind of stuck going up there."

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