The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs played another tight game this weekend. Just like last season’s regular-season matchup, it tilted in Buffalo’s favor, as the Bills won 24-20. Just like last year’s postseason matchup, the Chiefs were able to add a field goal at the end of a half in a minuscule amount of time, this time traveling 28 yards on three plays that covered just 16 seconds. However, that field goal came at the end of the first half, and the Bills prevailed anyway in the second half.
Buffalo’s premier players showed up and showed out on Sunday, leading the charge into the bye week as the AFC’s top team at 5-1. It may be a little early to talk about playoff seeding and positioning, but given that Buffalo currently has victories over the AFC West leader (Kansas City), the AFC North leader (the Baltimore Ravens), and the AFC South leader (the Tennessee Titans), I’d say that they’re sitting in good shape. Pretty, pretty, pretty good shape.
Here’s how our five players to watch for the Bills performed this weekend.
QB Josh Allen
Josh Allen is a mutant. He just does things that other humans are incapable of doing so often that it would be understandable if we became numb to it, or immune to how impressive he is every game. Don’t become immune to it. Keep basking in the fact that this guy plays for the team we love, and keep hoping that his trajectory continues in its current direction—sky-high. Allen started out on fire, completing his first five passes on Buffalo’s opening drive, marching the team down to Kansas City’s 13-yard line. Disaster struck, as an ill-advised option call saw two unblocked defenders swarm Allen in the backfield, and his pitch went to an inattentive Isaiah McKenzie (more on his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day below). The lost fumble was charged to Allen, and it was the only blemish on his otherwise stellar afternoon. Allen threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, and those touchdown passes were all works of art. The first went to wide receiver Gabe Davis at the end of the first half—a 34-yard rainbow into tight coverage up the right side of the end zone. The second went to wide receiver Stefon Diggs—a 17-yard toss that also went up the right side. The final one was a ridiculous laser to tight end Dawson Knox, as Allen hit him in the left corner of the end zone in crazy-tight coverage to give Buffalo a lead with 64 seconds left in the game. Two plays prior, Allen hurdled Chiefs safety Justin Reid for a 16-yard gain to set the Bills up in prime position. Allen endured a 2-of-11 stretch in the first half after Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo started sending pressure from everywhere, but Allen and the offense persevered. Their first touchdown drive began at their own two-yard line with just 1:29 remaining in the second quarter. The game-winning drive was a 12-play, 76-yard masterpiece. It was the ninth fourth-quarter comeback and 13th game-winning drive of Allen’s career. He finished 27-of-40 for 329 yards and three touchdowns, adding 12 carries for 32 yards rushing.
WR Isaiah McKenzie
Yikes. The game could not have been much worse for McKenzie, who started it by not looking for a pitch on an option play, which led to a fumble, and he topped off that masterpiece with a self-trip in the end zone on a fourth-down play. He was unable to secure the catch as he was falling to the ground, and the Bills turned the ball over on downs. Buffalo’s first three drives covered a total of 178 yards on 31 plays. They ended with, in order: a fumble on a pitch when McKenzie wasn’t looking, a field goal, and a dropped pass by McKenzie. Lil’ Dirty saw five targets on the day, catching just two for a total of nine yards. It was the kind of performance that made me want to see all of rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir and none of McKenzie on the field.
OG Rodger Saffold
Buffalo’s offensive line held up quite well overall, as Allen only took one sack on the day, and let’s be honest—that sack was a penalty. The Bills also gashed the Chiefs on the ground, unleashing running back Devin Singletary to the tune of 17 carries for 85 yards. Many of those yards came on runs up the middle behind fullback Reggie Gilliam, and either linemen Ryan Bates or Saffold. Against a stud defensive tackle like Chris Jones, the Bills had to be good up the middle, and they were just that. Saffold committed a false start penalty that moved Buffalo from the four to the two on that first-half touchdown drive. Otherwise, he was excellent.
EDGE Von Miller
This is exactly the reason why Buffalo signed Miller, whose Hall of Fame resume keeps improving with each passing year. He sacked quarterback Patrick Mahomes twice, hit him twice more, pressured him three times, and totaled four tackles on the day. Miller was instrumental to the game plan, as the mere threat of his presence gave Buffalo the ability to make it home with four rushers or less on multiple occasions. On the Bills’ final defensive play, it was Miller who split a double team to flush Mahomes out of the pocket, allowing linebacker Matt Milano to crash from his spy position, thereby delaying Mahomes from throwing to open wide receiver Skyy Moore on time. He held the ball, threw it late, and cornerback Taron Johnson secured the game-winning interception. If Miller can have the same kind of impact when these two teams inevitably see each other again in January, the Bills might be heading to their first Super Bowl since the 1993 season.
CB Kaiir Elam
The rookie had a very good day, as he was able to stick with Kansas City’s receivers and use his physicality to stay close in man coverage. Buffalo ran man-to-man defense at more than twice the rate they’ve played it during the season aside from this game, and Elam’s athleticism is a big part of the reason why they could do that (wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s change of address certainly helped, too). While Elam didn’t play tight end Travis Kelce as much as I thought he would—I only remember seeing him on the big tight end once—he was able to lock down the receivers in his area at a much better rate than he did against the Pittsburgh Steelers the week prior. Elam ended the Chiefs’ first drive when he intercepted Mahomes on an ill-advised toss on 3rd & 9. Elam had four tackles, one pass breakup, and the aforementioned interception.