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Opinion: Buffalo Bills got what they wanted on defense and still couldn’t stop the Kansas City Chiefs

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills’ defense is predicated on tackling and containing. Stay in your lanes up front, generate pressure but keep the QB contained to the pocket, and make the tackles in front of you. The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t get big plays over the top on Sunday night, but the Bills still couldn’t stop them.

In the first matchup between the two teams this season, the Bills allowed the Chiefs to run all over the place but Kansas City was also very successful through the air, efficiently converting when they needed. On Sunday night it was efficiently deadly.

The average depth of a Patrick Mahomes pass in the AFC Championship Game was 5.8 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. That’s 2.5 yards per target lower than his regular-season total and the lowest total of any of the four quarterbacks on Championship weekend. It would have been the second-lowest in the league during the 2020 regular season (Alex Smith was 5.0).

The Bills’ plan to limit big plays absolutely worked in that regard. Instead of going over the top, the Chiefs used their speed to take advantage horizontally. Tyreek Hill took nine receptions for 172 yards including a 71-yard zoom where he caught the ball seven yards past the line of scrimmage and ran away from Taron Johnson and Micah Hyde for another 64 yards. Travis Kelce had 118 yards but it took 13 catches and 15 targets—just nine yards per reception.

The Bills kept waiting for the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes to make a mistake and they just... didn’t. They couldn’t force Mahomes into a bad throw because he had guys open and was able to get the ball out quickly. It was like shooting fish in a barrel and Buffalo had no response.

Commentator Tony Romo was begging them to jam Kelce at the line of scrimmage and disrupt his routes. Do something to get them off their timing. The Bills instead continued to play their game and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Safety Jordan Poyer led the team in tackles with eight. Cornerback Tre’Davious White was second with seven, joined by Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds. Taron Johnson tied for the next most with five.

The Bills kept everything in front of them for the most part, they played their game, and it backfired spectacularly. They’re going to need a change up if they’re going to get past Mahomes in the future.