Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has been very guarded about exactly what went wrong in the team’s playoff collapse against the Kansas City Chiefs, calling it simply a matter of “execution” without going further.
New special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley isn’t offering much more than McDermott, but did shed some new light on how the team allowed the Chiefs to race down the field in the final 13 seconds of the fourth quarter, hitting a field goal that forced overtime and allowed Patrick Mahomes to lead his team to victory on the first drive.
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Breakdown in Communication
Speaking to the Buffalo News, Smiley talked about his new role with the team and his hopes for the coming season. Former special teams coordinator Heath Farwell left to take the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Smiley was promoted from his position as assistant coordinator under Farwell.
Smiley said he wants to look forward to the next season, and like McDermott does not seem too keen on re-litigating what went wrong in Kansas City. But he did reveal that the collapse had to do with a breakdown in communication.
“No, I think that there are a lot of intricacies in the game of football, that it’s not as much as it is comforting to say ‘It’s your fault, it’s his fault. This is exactly what happened,’ ” Smiley said. “It’s that overall communication, that whether it’s 13 seconds to go in a playoff game or whether it is a Tuesday practice and what drill is going to go where, it’s that improving communication that I think is very important.”
Special Teams Played a Role in Collapse
Smiley’s statement appears to support the hints from McDermott earlier this offseason that there was a breakdown in communication on the special teams side. After Josh Allen threw a go-ahead touchdown to Gabe Davis with 13 seconds remaining, the Bills kicked deep into the endzone, giving the Chiefs a touchback that allowed them to start on the 25-yard line without taking any time off the clock.
That went against the approach the team had taken earlier in the season. In a Week 14 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bills hit a field goal with 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Tyler Bass kicked high and short, forcing the Buccaneers to return from the 9-yard line. Buffalo’s excellent special teams coverage unit limited them to a 7-yard return, ending any chances that Tom Brady could lead them down the field for an attempt to win in regulation.
As Matt Bove of WKBW in Buffalo noted, when McDermott spoke about a failure in “execution” he appeared to be placing some of the blame on Bass and the special teams unit for not executing the same high and short kick against the Chiefs.
“Reading between the lines here but McDermott doubling down on the execution line makes me believe he didn’t want a touchback but also doesn’t want to specifically call anyone out on the play. That’s my read on the situation,” Bove tweeted.