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Buffalo Bills 38, Kansas City Chiefs 20: Rapid recap and notes

The Bills knocked out the Chiefs for the win.

The Buffalo Bills are the winners of a much-hyped showdown of AFC heavyweights, heading into Arrowhead Stadium and KO-ing the Kansas City Chiefs 38-20. Buffalo’s defense showed that its early success could be sustained against one of the league’s hottest offenses, and Josh Allen stepped up under pressure to keep putting points on the board from start to finish.

This game opened by answering the question of how Kansas City’s vaunted offense would match up against the high-ranking Bills defense. The two sides played out a stalemate, as the Chiefs had a 17-play drive, but the Bills forced them to settle for a field goal.

Up next was the question about whether the Bills’ offense had rebuilt their confidence against the unit that pummeled them last year. Buffalo set up their attitude by running the ball on six of their first eight offensive plays. Sprinkling in Josh Allen’s carries for some advantageous blocking, they scored a touchdown to take the lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Siran Neal had a textbook tackle on the returner and knocked the ball into the air. Andre Smith recovered it for the Bills, who were set up in field goal range. Devin Singletary netted them nine yards, and Zack Moss seemed to add 17 on his own run, but the referees called it back on a holding penalty. On the next play, Allen had one of his patented “tried too hard to escape” plays and took an intentional grounding penalty, knocking the Bills too far away to try for a score.

Patrick Mahomes cannot be stopped, he can only be delayed. And on the next drive, he picked apart the Bills, bit by bit, on a 12-play, 80-yard drive. The drive ended with Mahomes escaping the pocket, scrambling right, and hitting Byron Pringle in the back of the end zone.

Last year, the Bills ran into trouble when their offense wasn’t able to keep pace with the Chiefs. So it was encouraging to see them get right back up and respond with another touchdown. The play was set up by Allen checking down to a wide-open Zack Moss, who ran free for a 21-yard gain. On the next play, Allen hit Emmanuel Sanders 35 yards downfield, as the receiver strode into the end zone.

The Bills’ defense stepped up big to force a three and out, with Greg Rousseau coming unblocked and tackling Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a loss on third down. Allen went right back to the deep ball, hitting Stefon Diggs wayyy downfield for a 61-yard completion. It looked like a touchdown at first, but Diggs slowed up, maybe expecting a hard hit, and was caught at the 11-yard line. The Chiefs’ defense recovered to hold the Bills to three points, giving Buffalo a 17-10 lead.

Tyler Bass’s kickoff went out of bounds, starting the next drive at the 40-yard line, and Mahomes scrambled 23 yards on the first play. But the Bills’ defense tightened their clamps for the rest of the drive, finishing with a phenomenal eight-second play in which the Bills covered the whole field and knocked Mahomes’s pass away on fourth down.

It took only two plays for another Bills score. First, Moss ran 15 yards for a nice drive starter. Then, Allen played a little sandlot football, telling Dawson Knox to “go deep” as he scrambled right, and hitting him for a 53-yard touchdown. The Chiefs, to their credit, still had a little more than a minute left in the half, and used that time to set up a field goal. It was 24-13 at halftime, and the game dropped into a short delay because of lightning in the area.

After resuming play, the Bills weren’t able to get a first down, and punted right away. The Chiefs gained a little ground, but Mahomes wasn’t able to connect with his receivers, and punted it back to Buffalo. Allen hit another deep pass to Knox, moving them 41 yards down the field, but the drive stalled again and they made a clean punt to the KC eight-yard line.

The Bills had made Mahomes uncomfortable all night, and it paid off on that drive. On 3rd & 5 at the Kansas City 24-yard line, Mahomes tried hitting a receiver short of the sticks, but it was just a little bit ahead, and went through his teammate’s hands. Shadowing that receiver was Micah Hyde, who caught the pass and barreled into the end zone to give the Bills a 31-13 lead.

The Chiefs took over after the pick-six, but once again their drive was shut down by the Bills’ defense. It took nine plays, but Mahomes had his pass tipped by Greg Rousseau, who caught it himself and carried it out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, the Bills couldn’t get out of their own way on offense, burning only 1:40 of clock on three plays before punting back to Kansas City—only a 35-yard punt, too.

With great field position, and aided by a terrible pass interference call, the Chiefs drove down to the red zone for their fourth time in this game. A tricky pass play at the goal line scored them a touchdown, cutting Buffalo’s lead to 11 points.

At this point, a downpour started up again, and Isaiah McKenzie nearly lost the ball on the kickoff. Devin Singletary also had trouble catching a pass from Allen, and when Allen scrambled for the first down, the referees called another awful penalty against the Bills. Facing 3rd & 17, it looked like the tide was turning, and Allen heaved up a prayer downfield, that was picked off. But the play didn’t count, because Frank Clark was called for roughing the passer—a major break for the Bills in keeping their lead. From that point, Allen flipped his MVP switch, running for 32 yards and throwing for 41 as he took the team downfield against a desperate defense. He finished it off by threading the needle to Sanders for the receiver’s second touchdown catch of the game. The Bills led 38-20 with six minutes left in the game, and Bills Mafia could breathe easy at last.

The Chiefs tried a desperation drive late in the fourth quarter, but before long they were the victims of the wet elements. Mahomes bobbled a snap, which rolled and was kicked backward behind him, and Tre’Davious White landed on it for another turnover to truly ice the game.

Now at 4-1, the Bills have cleared by far their biggest hurdle of the season. They’re tied for the top seed in the conference, and their schedule eases up tremendously for the rest of the year. As frustrating as it was for their loss to the Chiefs to remove them from the conference lead last year, it’s that much more satisfying to be on the other side of the street this time.

Injury report

  • Taron Johnson went down with cramps briefly in the third quarter. He missed one play and returned to action.
  • Near the end of the third quarter, Siran Neal also cramped up. Dane Jackson replaced him in the lineup, and Neal came back later in the game.

Quick hits

  • Absolute MVP performance tonight by Josh Allen. He’s been uneven to start the year, but he went blow-for-blow with Patrick Mahomes and pummeled the Chiefs into submission. Four TDs, nearly 400 yards, and no turnovers, is exactly what the doctor ordered.
  • And how about this defense? Just an unbelievable job making Mahomes uncomfortable all night. He threw two picks, he took two sacks, he only completed five yards per attempt. He had his moments, but the team stood up strong in the red zone. The defense is the real deal.
  • The Bills drafted Greg Rousseau with Mahomes in mind, and his first game against the Chiefs was exactly what they hoped for. He had a sack, an interception, and a tackle for loss.
  • Outstanding heads-up play by Micah Hyde with his pick-six, but also working in tandem with the rest of the secondary to shut down Tyreek Hill—nine yards per catch for the team’s most dangerous receiver.
  • What a season it’s been for Dawson Knox. With three catches for 117 yards and a touchdown tonight, he’s already one TD away from matching the franchise record for touchdown receptions by a tight end in a season. He also leads the league in tight end touchdowns, with five.
  • For the moment, Knox is also on pace to break the team’s tight end receiving yardage record!
  • This was also the 11th 100-yard receiving game by a Bills tight end in franchise history. Charles Clay had the last, in a 2017 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
  • When the Bills surrendered an opening-drive field goal to the Chiefs in this game, it marked the first time the Bills had trailed in the first half this season. Through the first four weeks, that had never happened to the Bills.
  • With four turnovers in this game, the Bills now comfortably lead the league in takeaways.
  • It’s raining flags! There were 14 total penalties called in the first half, with five accepted against the Bills and six accepted against the Chiefs. A Bills penalty cost them at least three points, while the Chiefs were forced to settle for three when a penalty stalled their final drive of the first half. By the end, 17 penalties had been accepted on both sides.
  • If you look at the Emmanuel Sanders touchdown in the second quarter, rewind one play to Zack Moss’s catch-and-run. Sanders was running uncovered deep downfield—a sign that he’d be open for the score on the very next play.
  • The Bills went into halftime with a lead for the 14th consecutive regular-season game. That’s an NFL record, believe it or not!
  • Real strange coaching call by the Chiefs, to kick a surprise onside at the end of the first half, with two seconds left. The Bills recovered it but, either way, the clock hit zero by the end of the scuffling—which left no time for any scoring. Why didn’t they kick it at the start of the second half?
  • How effective was the Bills’ defense? The Chiefs dominated time of possession and total plays, but the Bills still outgained them with ease. Buffalo gained 8.1 yards per play, and Kansas City only managed five.
  • One worrying thread to follow: The mediocre punting performance of Matt Haack, who shanked one punt and had another punt land in the end zone where it should’ve been a coffin corner kick.

Next week

The Bills stay in primetime, taking on the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. The game will be in Nashville, and a huge opportunity for the Bills to win against a team who crushed them last season. The Titans are 3-2, having handily beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday afternoon.