During that time, it felt like the Patriots were an immovable object standing in the way of Buffalo’s potential relevance in the AFC East. No matter what circumstances surrounded the game, what injuries popped up, what shiny new free agents the Bills had acquired since the last meeting, or what draft class each team boasted—the Patriots found a way to send the Bills back to their assigned locker room with an L when the clock struck zero. It felt like an inevitability. They were the boogeyman.
Fast forward to 2022. The Patriots are no longer the cream of the crop in the AFC East, much less the AFC as a whole. The boogeyman has been slain, or at least now resides in Tampa Bay, FL. There is much rejoicing.
But from the depths of the darkest corner of the closet, a new specter begins to emerge in the minds of many: the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills are 1-3 against the Chiefs in their last four, and two of the losses have occurred on the AFC side of the NFL playoff bracket. “13 seconds” is a go-to rebuttal of any Buffalo optimism this year on social media. But win or lose this week, Kansas City is not the boogeyman like the Patriots were for many years prior. I know that “can the Bills get past the Chiefs in the playoffs” will likely be a narrative even in the event of a Bills win this Sunday, but it shouldn’t be the case.
The Bills have an elite quarterback, a strong defense, and a good head coach. The boogeyman Patriots teams had all three of those factors and consistently faced a Buffalo drought team that frequently had none of them. The Chiefs have an elite quarterback and a Hall of Fame head coach that I’m glad finally got his Super Bowl ring and the flowers that go along with it.
This Buffalo Bills team, as currently constructed, doesn’t have boogeymen. They beat the Chiefs by 18 points at Arrowhead Stadium last year during the regular season, and coached their way into a 13-second debacle against a team where missteps of that nature don’t frequently go unpunished. When Buffalo finally broke the 15-game skid to the Patriots, it was in a game where then-New England quarterback Tom Brady tied a career-high with four interceptions (one of which bounced off a helmet) and the game-clinching Patriots interception was called back on a pass interference penalty. The Patriots outgained the Bills and had more first downs. It didn’t feel like a turning of the tide as much as a respite. There were no exorcisms performed when kicker Rian Lindell’s field goal went through the uprights that day but, rather, outpours of emotion that the narrative could stop being discussed for a bit. It was a lesser version of breaking the playoff drought: few thought it meant the team was destined for greatness, but it was nice to have the monkey off their backs.
The Bills beat the Chiefs last year by 18 points in their house because they were an elite team that had a better day than the other elite team. The game against Kansas City in the playoffs last year again showed two elite teams led by elite quarterbacks doing things that elite teams with elite quarterbacks do in big games.
And so win or lose this week, there is no boogeyman. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are in the top tier of NFL quarterbacks, and their respective teams are in the top tier of NFL teams. The Bills can beat the Chiefs. Whether they do or not this time around is a topic for another story.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network.