It was seldom beautiful, but it was often thrilling. Just before 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 10, the Buffalo Bills once again walked off GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium winners against the Kansas City Chiefs. It marked the third time the Bills defeated the Chiefs on their home turf, bringing their record in Kansas City to 3-2 since 2021.
If ever a professional football team needed a win, the Bills found themselves in such a scenario today. At 6-6 and gnashing their teeth at the possibility of letting the postseason slip away, Buffalo also had to navigate through mountains of outside distraction due to edge rusher Von Miller’s arrest for domestic violence related to assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. Then a massive story broke late last week that painted head coach Sean McDermott in some very unflattering light — exposing him as a difficult coach to work for and taking him to task as a leader void of owning responsibility. Perhaps worst of all, an ill-advised training camp speech that made reference to the terrorists involved with 9/11 was made public. The sanctuary of an NFL locker room had been violated.
So yes, this is a huge win — not only to keep playoff hopes alive, but to refocus and recharge a team that seemed headed for draft prep. It’s worth noting that the Bills remain 11th in playoff seeding as of Sunday night. There’s still a lot of work to do and help that’s needed. The positive here is that Buffalo triumphed in the face of massive adversity — on the field by the defending Super Bowl champs and off the field in the court of public opinion.
Another success on the evening was the play book interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady rolled out. Early on, Brady called a masterful game, heavily involving the running backs and tight ends. Running back James Cook was oft-featured in the first half, a nearly unguardable receiver down the field. As has become typical, we saw plenty of action headed rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid’s way, only for him to disappear for too much of the second half.
The second half once again proved problematic for Buffalo’s offense, which seemed unable to adapt and find new holes to exploit in Kansas City’s defense. Whether that was due to adjustments by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo or not, Joe Brady seemed to struggle calling plays that put the receivers in position to make yards down the field. Thanks to a 14-point first half, the Bills had built enough of a lead such that their second-half six-point output wasn’t undone by the Chiefs’ late 14-point surge.
With the scheme stalling and the offensive line unable to hold KC’s defensive line long enough, Josh Allen flipped the switch, making play after play when the team needed it and him most. Allen finished the day 23-of-42 for 233 yards with one touchdown and one early interception, adding 10 rushes for 32 yards and another touchdown. His counterpart in Patrick Mahomes started off very slow, but found heat in the second half, especially late. Mahomes finished 25-of-43 for 271 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, adding a single rush for eight yards.
As noted in the second-half game thread, Buffalo’s wide receivers struggled all night, noted clearly by Stefon Diggs’ four catches on 11 targets for just 24 yards. Gabe Davis saw two targets, and failed to corral both. It’s possible that Brady’s intention was to use the boundary receivers as blockers early in the game, but when Allen needed to find his alpha dogs, they appeared rusty and out of sync with QB17. The game’s biggest catch went to the underused Deonte Harty, who made a spectacular catch to extend a late drive that ultimately led to the game’s winning points.
Following the game, it was revealed that Kincaid went in for X-rays on what was termed a non-specific shoulder injury.
Tonight’s game was mired in injury for the Bills, with defensive end A.J. Epenesa, safety Micah Hyde, and linebacker Tyrel Dodson exiting the game (with Dodson returning).
While many chose to call the game finished once the Chiefs began scoring and the Bills began punting, that same old narrative from 2023 didn’t play out in Week 14.
Much of that was due to the self-inflicted wounds the Chiefs made early, and then again late. Really late, it likely cost them a win. However, it’s important to note that even if Kansas City scored a go-ahead touchdown, they were set to turn the ball back over to Josh Allen and Buffalo’s offense.
Patrick Mahomes was dead-set on one play being the difference in the game. From a new-face-of-the-NFL quarterback who often sees everything go swimmingly, Sunday evening’s game proved that Patrick Mahomes is, indeed, human after all. He struggled in nearly every way through most of the first half, rallying late as he’s proven magically capable. But this time, Mahomes couldn’t overcome his team’s mistakes. A team that continues to search for answers at wide receiver — and seemed to have found one in rookie wideout Rashee Rice — once again couldn’t pull it together in crunch time to give their team a lead it so desperately wanted. No, instead wide receiver Kadarius Toney was flagged at the snap for lining up offside. Egregiously so. Wiped out was an all-too-familiar play that always seems to catch Bills teams by surprise. Tight end Travis Kelce caught a long pass from Mahomes and, instead of going down in the red zone, he threw an overhand lateral to Toney. And Toney galloped in for six,
Instead of going ahead late in the fourth on a well-timed trick play, the Chiefs would end up failing to convert on fourth down. Buffalo’s ball. Game over. What remained for Mahomes was an outpouring of emotional anger, visibly upset about at officials about that one penalty. That anger continued to reverberate in Chiefs’ postgame comments, where head coach Andy Reid took exception to a lack of awareness about his own player.
Andy Reid said he's always been given a warning before a penalty like Toney's is called. "It's a bit embarrassing for the National Football League for that to take place."— Adam Teicher (@adamteicher) December 11, 2023
Then this from Mahomes, who believes taking away “greatness like that” was unwarranted even if the penalty is legitimate.
Patrick Mahomes on the final drive: "It’s tough to swallow. Not only from me, and football in general, to take away greatness like that, for a guy like Travis to make a play like that, you want to see the guys on the field decide the game. They’re human. They make mistakes. But…— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) December 11, 2023
Because, yes, the penalty was legitimate, warranted, and easy to spot:
When officiating the line of scrimmage, general philosophy is not to be overly technical and split hairs over very minor infractions (such as a receiver's hand slightly breaking the LOS). However, when an infraction is so egregious and obvious, a flag has to be thrown.— Gene Steratore (@GeneSteratore) December 11, 2023
Have you heard?
The Bills became the first team to defeat Patrick Mahomes three times to this point in his NFL career. Howard Simon shared one of the best tweets of the evening, with this nugget:
Bills are the 1st team to beat Mahomes 3 times in his career. Also, Mahomes is now 35-10 at home in regular season. 0-3 vs Bills and 35-7 vs everyone else— Howard Simon (@hsimon62) December 11, 2023
There’s so much else to discuss about today’s game, but for now get yourselves ready to enjoy Victory Monday — Go Bills!