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The improbability of the Bengals’ fourth down touchdown

“Never tell me the odds!” - Andy Dalton & Tyler Boyd

The Buffalo Bills and all of their fans have never watched a Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens more closely than this past Sunday. The Bills had taken care of their business but still needed some help from their last hope, the Bengals. The hopes of the team, the city, and Bills fans worldwide rested on the shoulders of Andy Dalton.

Down three with under three minutes remaining, the Bengals got the ball at their own 10-yard line. After nine plays the Bengals faced 4th and 12 at the Ravens 49-yard line with 53 seconds left in regulation. On that play, Andy Dalton found Tyler Boyd for not only a first down, but a 49-yard game-winning touchdown. The Bengals would shut down the Ravens’ final attempt and an improbable Bills playoff berth would be finalized. It was an unlikely result, but just how unlikely?

In the 2017 regular season NFL teams attempted 4th and 12+ yards 45 times. Out of those attempts 10 gained a first down or and two resulted in a touchdown. Coincidentally, the two touchdowns came from the Bengals and the Bills. Since 2000, there have been 776 attempts at 4th and 12+ yards. Teams were successful on 170 of those attempts, but only 29 - 3.7% of all attempts - resulted in touchdowns. It may not be one in a million, but 3.7% is not exactly great odds.

The stats tells us the odds of Andy Dalton finding Tyler Boyd for a touchdown were slightly higher than Lloyd Christmas’ odds of ending up with Mary Swanson. What the stats don’t account for is the Bengals being a mediocre football team, the Bengals having little to play for, and the Bills needing them to win and everything that comes with Buffalo sports jinxes. Whatever the odds, Bills fans everywhere are happy with the result.