Getty Head coach Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills looks on during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2023.
It was a play that Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said the team practices often – a quick switch from dime defense to a field goal block when an opponent is about to attempt a kick and there’s little time left.
But when it came time for the team to score late in the fourth quarter of their game against the Denver Broncos on November 13, the Bills couldn’t get it done. Although Broncos kicker Will Lutz sailed the 41-yard kick past the upright, the Bills were criticized for having 12 men on the field. Lutz converted the re-kick and gave the Broncos a 24-22 win.
After the game, a visibly frustrated McDermott said it was due to failed execution.
“We practiced the penny change two or three times this week [defense] to the field goal block, and at the end of the day we didn’t execute. This is inexcusable,” he said.
Bills plagued by errors and missed opportunities
The penalty was the latest in a series of mistakes by the Bills, including four turnovers. Quarterback Josh Allen had two interceptions, while running back James Cook fumbled on the game’s first play from scrimmage, allowing the Broncos to kick a field goal.
Just before the field goal attempt, the Bills incurred another costly penalty, with cornerback Taron Johnson cited for pass interference on a third-down play that put the Broncos within field goal range.
After the game, McDermott said the mistakes were unacceptable.
“You can’t turn the ball over for one period of time, let alone four times,” McDermott said.
McDermott said the team will have to have some difficult conversations this week and possibly make some changes.
“I need a little more time after the game to assess it. “I’m not happy right now, so we’ll evaluate that in the next 24 hours and take care of it,” McDermott said.
But the Bills head coach also expressed confidence in both offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and his players.
“The guys are upset, they’re frustrated,” McDermott said, adding: “I can promise it’s not for a lack of effort. So we have to continue to reset and make the necessary adjustments.”
Sean McDermott is under fire for bad decisions and decisions
The late-game penalty wasn’t the only play that drew sharp criticism for the Bills’ head coach. He was also criticized for the decision to bench Cook for much of the first and second quarters after his fumble. Cook came back strong, rushing 12 times for 109 yards and helping the Bills get back into the game.
Nick Wojton of USA Today’s Bills Wire wrote that calls to fire McDermott began as soon as the game ended. He pointed out that the future could be bleak for both the team and McDermott, with the Bills now well outside the playoffs.
“Now 5-5 overall and 2-5 against the AFC… the Bills are almost entirely out of the postseason,” Wojton wrote. “Despite these and those mistakes, things are not looking particularly good for head coach Sean McDermott at the moment.
“It might be safe to make your January plans now.”
Nathan Dougherty is a sports reporter who covers the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions for Heavy. He previously wrote for the Rochester Business Journal and was associate editor of the sports journals Coaching Management, Athletic Management and Training & Conditioning. He lives in Rochester, New York and loves all things soccer. More about Nathan Dougherty