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Analytics said go for it on fourth down. So did Sean McDermott's trust in his players
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Analytics said go for it on fourth down. So did Sean McDermott's trust in his players

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Fourth and inches

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) lines up for the play on fourth-and-1 in the final moments of the fourth quarter.

Whether the Buffalo Bills should have gone for it on fourth-and-inches in the final moments of Monday's loss to the Tennessee Titans will be debated, but the analytics indicate a clear lean toward coach Sean McDermott having made the right call.

According to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, the conversion probability was 75%. The win probability was 63% if the Bills went for it and 42% if they went for a field goal. The difference of exactly 21.3% made going for it "unequivocally the optimal call," per Next Gen. 

ESPN's win probability model had it as less than a clear call. Going for it generated a 48.9% win probability, and a field goal was 47.5%.

The Bills are noted to be among the more savvy teams when it comes to analytics, but McDermott pointed to more than numbers when he talked about his decision and his belief in his players.

"I mean we're this far (gesturing just inches) from winning the game," he said. "And I owe that to my players, and I believe in my players. I believe in our quarterback. So, I trust my guys. Obviously, we didn't get it done in this case, but I trust my players."

McDermott said quarterback Josh Allen's success on similar short-yardage plays impacted his decision, as well. According to ESPN, Allen has converted 13 of 14 plays of fourth and 1 or less in his career entering the game. The one miss was on a botched snap.

“Josh is usually spot on with those. You’ve seen him have a lot of success in those situations," the coach said. "So, again, give them the credit. They made the play when they had to make one. 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, so ... felt like we could go and win the game right there and obviously didn’t get it done."

As to why the play failed, McDermott's first glance showed him Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons blowing up the play from the left side of the Bills' offensive line.

“It just looked like there was some penetration there off our left side and they pinched down," he said. "It looked like there was an opportunity, but at the end of the day I trust him and I’ll trust him again if we’re in that situation again. So, I’ll take Josh Allen 10 times out of 10."

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