One-Score Games

There is a One-Score narrative about the Bills that is floating around that I bugs me. It does not bug me because I think it is untrue. Definitively, they have lost a lot of One-Score games. But what bugs me about the narrative is that it is a very shallow analysis of the problem... and I believe... it incorrectly points to the main root cause. I am not a fan of most popular narratives. I have found that, in general, most popular narratives are based on very shallow analysis. They rarely ever point to the real root cause. Don't get me wrong. I want to figure out what is truly wrong with the Bills. I know the season has gone sideways and I like solving problems. I don't care about what the answer is. I just want to figure out the issue.

In particular, the narrative is floating around trying to insinuate that the Bills are not "clutch" because they have lost a lot of One-Score games, especially when compared to the Chiefs. While both of these two things may be true. I don't think that one really implies the other. But let's see...

The Narrative:

While given that very specific criteria that narrative seems true in 2023. The Chiefs have won more One-Score games than the Bills...


That looks pretty definitive. But I have watched enough football to know that all One-Score games are not created equal.

A Deeper View:

Just because the final score is a One-Score differential, it does not mean that the situations leading up to the final score were the same. I think we all have watched enough football to know that the last couple of minutes of the game matter a lot and it matters who is leading and who has the ball.

Here is a deeper view of the same teams and the same set of games, but divided up by who is leading and who has the ball with 2 mins left...


Now that is a much different story. In 3 of the 4 scenarios, the Bills and the Chiefs look the same. But the Bills still look disadvantaged in the "Leading and don't have the ball at 2:00". I could end it hear and I could still make the claim that the Bills are not clutch, but I have also watched enough football to know that there are extra layers to this situation.

An Even Deeper View:

How much a team is leading by can also affect the end of the game....


Hmmm... that is yet another view of the narrative. In the one game where the Chiefs triumphed, they were leading by more than a FG with 2 mins left. That puts a ton more pressure on the opponent than if the team was only leading by a FG or less. If you give most teams (even bad teams) 2 mins to just get in FG range, then they will likely do it.


While we all know that the Bills' season has gone sideways and they have under-achieved, I am not sure that the end of game management or "clutch" nature of this team has been the biggest reason for the poor results. Sure. There might have been play calls, mistakes, and time management that is not ideal in some of these cases, but it seems like given the same end of game situations, the Bills and the Chiefs are very similar. I contend that the real issue is that the team did too little too late to put themselves into a position to succeed in the final two minutes. This team has put them selves into too many holes too early in the game (e.g. slow starts, too many turnovers, critical penalties, drops, missed assignments, etc...) that leave them in a disadvantaged situation at the end of the game. Again, I am not trying to say that the Bills are great at end of game management. They need to clean that up too. But I don't think the "One-Score" narrative that is floating around has anything to do with whether the Bills are clutch or not.

If I can find more time, I will try to dig even deeper, but I thought this view was enough to shed a very different light on the narrative.

What do you see in the data?

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