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Sean McDermott tried to punt away the Buffalo Bills’ season against Indianapolis Colts

This was a horrible move.

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

We are very happy here at Buffalo Rumblings that the Buffalo Bills won the snow-vertime game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, 13-7. We are very happy that LeSean McCoy is on our side. What we were not happy about was a decision late in overtime by Bills head coach Sean McDermott, who tried to punt away the team’s postseason hopes.

Let’s set the stage. Near the end of regulation, the Colts had seemingly won the game twice. After a 19-play, 10-minute drive where they converted on two fourth downs, the Colts scored a touchdown. On the ensuing try, they converted the two-point conversion, as well, but after the play was over an incredibly late flag came down and the Colts were charged with offensive pass interference on a pick play. Adam Vinatieri came in and barely made an extra point in the snowy conditions to tie the game instead.

After Buffalo’s third string quarterback, Joe Webb, threw an interception on his second pass of the next drive, Vinatieri was set up at almost the same exact spot for a game-winning field goal but it was no good and the game went to the extra session.

The Bills received the ball and sustained a solid drive to the Indianapolis 41 where 4th and a yard or two loomed. With four minutes left, should the Bills punt it away when a tie does them no good in their playoff aspirations? Buffalo needed the win to keep pace with the rest of the AFC playoff picture.

The odds are very clear on this; it’s easier to gain two yards than it is to punt, hold your opponent to no first downs, field your own punt, and move back into scoring position all with limited time on the clock. Buffalo hadn’t made it past midfield with Webb at quarterback, so this was their best shot in two quarters of play. And to top it off, Buffalo used one of their timeouts before the punt making stopping the clock even more challenging.

McDermott made the wrong decision. He punted.

He punted to a team that didn’t need to score to ruin Buffalo’s playoff lives. Indianapolis needed to gain two first downs, robbing the Bills of the time the needed to score. On the second play after the punt, Frank Gore ripped off a 10-yard run to give Indy a fresh set of downs. But the Colts started to pass and the Bills defense held.

Buffalo got the ball back at their own 35. They had lost 25 yards of field position from their punt and 1:47 off the clock, which all things considered isn’t that much time. (Sean McDermott would say after the game he was playing for field position, but he lost 25 yards of field position.) And now they had to drive further than they had with their special-teams-playing quarterback in 2:25 with no timeouts in a sloppy mess of drifting snow to save their season.

That’s what they did after a beautiful catch from Deonte Thompson for 34 yards and a 21-yard touchdown scamper from LeSean McCoy. That doesn’t make the decision the right one to make.

There is no doubt that the decision to punt to a team that had just held the ball for almost 11 minutes of the fourth quarter with only 4:07 remaining in overtime was the wrong one. McDermott, a first-year, first-time head coach got lucky and so did his team. Again, the Colts didn’t need to score to ruin Buffalo’s season. All they had to do was keep running the ball and kill clock.

The rookie head coach needs to learn from this so it doesn’t happen next time when a more meaningful game is on the line against a different opponent. When you punt with one timeout left and 4 minutes on the clock, you can’t think you’re getting the ball back in a good position and he didn’t. His offense bailed him out when they had no business doing so.

We’re glad they won. We’re going to laugh about the game with our friends today and in the future. Go Bills.