The Buffalo Bills made two pivotal fourth-down decisions that heavily boosted their odds of winning against the New England Patriots in Week 16.
During last Sunday’s matchup, head coaches Sean McDermott and Bill Belichick faced 12 fourth-down decisions that the Next Gen Stats Decision Guide made a clear recommendation.
Maybe they had a direct line into their headset because the coaches matched the analytics each time.
The first decision was made by McDermott was going for it on fourth-and-seven with 2:15 remaining in the second quarter.
Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore jumped offsides turning Buffalo’s conversion from a fourth-and-seven to a fourth-and-two. Buffalo’s chance of converting went up 16 percentage points in the process.
Bills QB Josh Allen would complete a pass to receiver Stefon Diggs for 23 yards, moving the chains. Three plays later, the Bills would reach the end zone and go up 17-7 on New England.
The other decision Next Gen Stats calls the “game-clinching play.”
With 4:27 remaining in the fourth quarter with the Bills leading 26-21, they elected to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Patriots’ 34-yard line. Allen keeps and runs to the left for eight yards and a first down.
On 4th & 1 from the Patriots 34 (leading by 5), the #Bills convert on a Josh Allen 8-yard run (78% conversion probability). The NGS Decision Guide agreed with Sean McDermott’s decision:
Win if GO: 88.4%
Win if FG: 79.2%
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 26, 2021
Next Gen Stats determined that the Bills convert for a first down 77.7% of the time in a similar situation while a field goal from that range (52 yard attempt) has a 47% rate of success.
Since a field goal did not create a two-possession lead, going for it was the complete right decision.