The Buffalo Bills returned to Missouri to face the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time since their entire 2021 season changed over the course of 13 fateful seconds. The Bills and Chiefs fought hard for the entire game, and this time, regulation was enough to settle things. Buffalo came out with a 24-20 victory in what was another great game in the recent series between these teams.
The Bills bent but did not break, they played physically, and they did just enough to come out with a hard-fought victory in the place where their season has ended each of the last two years. In order to do that, they had to control the Chiefs’ top players. They had varying levels of success while trying to achieve that goal.
Here is the rundown on how our five Chiefs to watch fared on Sunday.
QB Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes had a strong day overall, completing 25-of-40 passes for 338 yards and two scores. He added 21 rushing yards, and he made a couple of absolutely gorgeous throws on the run. His ability to escape the pocket and make plays is his greatest trait, and his accuracy under duress makes it so that teams really can’t blitz him. They instead have to hope that a three- or four-man pass rush can hit him. With all that good, it was the two bad plays that ended up biting the Chiefs in the end. On Kansas City’s first drive, they had 3rd & Goal from the nine-yard line. Mahomes lofted an ill-advised pass towards wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a floater that rookie cornernack Kaiir Elam easily intercepted to end the drive. Then, with the Chiefs trailing 24-20 in the fourth quarter, Mahomes was flushed from the pocket, pump-faked, and stared down slot receiver Skyy Moore. The hesitation allowed cornerback Taron Johnson to break off his zone responsibility and secure a game-winning interception. We watched the NFL’s two best quarterbacks duel on Sunday, and I’d be willing to bet that we’ll see them do it again in January.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Mahomes used his second-most popular target effectively in this one, hitting the big slot receiver five times for a total of 113 yards and a 42-yard touchdown to open the scoring for Kansas City. That score came as a result of great balance by Smith-Schuster, as well as some horrendous tackling by Buffalo’s defensive secondary. Smith-Schuster was as efficient as could be in the game, too, as he was only targeted on the five passes he caught. Aside from his 42-yard scoring grab, he also had a 41-yard catch on the day, as well as a 13-yard grab that ended with him being called for taunting.
TE Travis Kelce
Mahomes’s WR1 is actually TE1, and Kelce was outstanding yet again. He led the Chiefs in targets (10) and receptions (8), and he was second to Smith-Schuster in receiving yards (108). The Bills threw a variety of cover guys at him, though the team ran some dime packages more than they have at any point this season. The sixth defender was either Siran Neal, who played 12 snaps, or Christian Benford, who played 39 snaps on the game. Neal was often locked up with Kelce, although the Bills never left anyone one-on-one with the big tight end. If the teams meet again in January, I’ll be interested to see who covers him—would the Bills use cornerback Tre’Davious White on Kelce like they did at times last year in the regular season? My gut says that’s exactly what will happen, and while it might be impossible to stop him entirely, they’ll need to do something to slow him a bit more. That’s much easier said than done.
DE Frank Clark
Clark made his presence known in the Buffalo backfield, as he was able to score some pressure on quarterback Josh Allen every so often. However, for the most part, the Bills’ offensive line was able to keep the Chiefs’ pass rush at bay, so defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had to dial up blitzes to compensate. That worked for a time, but Allen and offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey eventually caught up, and the Chiefs went back to rushing four. Clark had a quarterback hit, a tackle for a loss, and four total tackles on the night.
DT Chris Jones
Last year, Jones was a one-man wrecking crew, collapsing the pocket right in Allen’s lap and making his life generally miserable. This time around, he had very little impact on the game, as the offensive line did a nice job keeping him off Allen. The Bills were able to find some holes running the ball in the middle, as well, so that might have sapped some of Jones’s pass-rushing strength. Jones had three tackles, one quarterback hit, one tackle for a loss, one pass breakup, and one trip of Allen in the backfield that was ruled a sack.