BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Dolphins were the butt of jokes after a botched punt appeared to give the Bills a better chance to back into victory on Sunday.
But is it possible the now infamous Butt Punt that twerked out of the rear end zone actually assisted Miami’s win? As counterintuitive as it seems, situational football math suggests that might have been the case.
The Dolphins led 21-17 late in the game when Thomas Morstead’s punt was blocked by teammate Trent Sherfield’s backside. The Bills scored a safety on the play, and got the ball back on Morstead’s ensuing safety punt.
Buffalo took possession on its own 23-yard line, trailing 21-19 with 1:25 remaining. According to the Pro Football Reference win probability calculator, the Bills had about a 27% chance of victory when taking over in that situation. However, they failed to get close enough to attempt a winning field goal before time expired. (Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was a bit upset about it.)
Had Morstead executed a clean punt from his own end zone, it likely would’ve improved the Bills’ win probability. Even though a touchdown would be required to win, better field position would have made a notable difference.
According to research from Chase Stuart at FootballPerspective.com, the average drive start after a punt from the opponent’s 1-yard line is around the 37-yard line. If the Bills had gotten the ball there with 1:25 left, and trailing by four points instead of two, their win probability would have been about 44%, per Pro Football Reference. Even backed up to midfield, Buffalo’s odds would have been about 36%.
Credit former NFL quarterback Trent Green for recognizing this in real time. Color commentating for the CBS broadcast, Green suggested the Dolphins step out of the end zone and intentionally take a safety in order to put the Bills in worse field position for the winning score. Green also recognized the possibility that the Bills could block the punt and recover in close scoring range, or in the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown.
Win probabilities are calculated from the outcomes of similar situations in NFL history. They do not account for the Bills having Josh Allen at quarterback, or his offense’s inability to finish drives as Sunday’s game wore on. The calculator knows nothing of the injuries and heat illnesses that hampered the Bills, nor that the offense did not score a touchdown in three red zone trips during the second half. It also doesn’t account for timeouts – the Bills had none remaining on the final possession.
Regardless of the outcome, the Butt Punt entertained viewers. It drew headlines from the New York Times and the Associated Press, and even drew a cheeky response from Fox analyst Mark Sanchez of Butt Fumble fame.
“Woah… stay out of my lane bro,” the former New York Jets quarterback tweeted after the game.
Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill told reporters after the game, “I’ve never seen a butt punt before. … But next time (Sherfield) is going to catch it with his butt cheeks. Because he’s got strong butt cheeks.”
“My cheeks, Sherfield tweeted, “have a big W tatted on them.”
The toilet paper brand Charmin even got in on the fun: “Those cheeks are going to need something soft,” it wrote to Sherfield. “Check your DM’s.”