The Kansas City Chiefs appeared to have taken a lead on the Buffalo Bills in the fourth quarter in typically Billsy fashion. On the day of the tragic passing of former Tennessee Titans tight end Frank Wycheck — the man who began the homer throwback play that propelled the Titans to a win over Buffalo in the Wild Card playoffs in January 2000 — tight end Travis Kelce threw a perfect half-field lateral to receiver Kadarius Toney for what looked to be a go-ahead touchdown.
Instead, the officials — rightly — ruled that Toney had lined up offside, the play was nullified, and the Bills earned a stop when they needed it most to preserve a 20-17 victory on the road. The win hurt the Chiefs’ chances at the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, and it gave the Bills new life in their quest for a fifth-straight playoff berth.
Here’s how our five Chiefs to watch performed this week.
QB Patrick Mahomes
It was a rough start for the Chiefs’ all-world signal-caller, as he threw an interception on Kansas City’s very first possession. It came on a tipped ball by defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who caught his own deflection to end what had started as a fairly promising first drive for the Chiefs. At the end of the first half, Mahomes had completed 13-of-21 passes for 130 yards and that interception — good for a 59.4 quarterback rating. In the second half, Mahomes moved the ball better, especially in the third quarter. However, a spirited Bills defense clamped down in the fourth quarter, preventing the Chiefs and Mahomes from doing much for the last 18 minutes or so. On the play that everyone’s talking about, Mahomes threw a dime to Kelce, but after the flag took the play off the board, Mahomes had three more chances to move his charges forward. He threw incomplete to the right while under heavy pressure from edge rusher Von Miller, then had a ball batted at the line by defensive tackle Ed Oliver on third down. On fourth down, a desperation heave landed harmlessly in the middle of multiple Buffalo defenders, and an epic temper tantrum followed. Mahomes was 25-of-43 on the day for 271 yards, throwing one touchdown and one interception. He added an eight-yard scramble on the day.
TE Travis Kelce
It seemed for a bit there that Kelce and cornerback Rasul Douglas had some bad blood, as the two were locked up in a pretty physical matchup in the early going. Kelce was called for offensive pass interference early, too, as he shoved off of Douglas in an attempt to gain some separation. Buffalo was certainly ready for it, as any offensive momentum for the Chiefs was sure to flow through Kelce — their top target and someone the Bills know all too well. In what would have been a play straight out of my wildest dreams — or perhaps my nightmares — Kelce caught a long pass on Kansas City’s final drive, lateraled the ball across the field to Kadarius Toney, and was devastated along with the rest of Chiefs Kingdom when the play was nullified thanks to Toney’s offside penalty. Finally, some good karma came Buffalo’s way. Taylor Swift’s lover had six catches for 83 yards on the day.
WR Rashee Rice
The rookie wideout had a nice day, and he’s definitely developing into a formidable weapon for Mahomes and company. While he’s definitely not Tyreek Hill, he’s a significant upgrade over JuJu Smith-Schuster, and he’s definitely going to be a better player than his teammate, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, as long as he keeps on his current path. Given Buffalo’s desire to bracket and slow Kelce, Rice found himself with some favorable matchups throughout the game, and he was able to haul in Mahomes’ lone touchdown pass — a four-yard score towards the end of the third quarter on a beautiful throw and a nifty catch. Rice saw ten targets, tying Kelce for the team high, and he caught seven passes for 72 yards and that score.
OT Wanya Morris
The new left tackle, starting in place of the injured Donovan Smith, held his own in this one. Most of Buffalo’s pressure came from the right side and the middle, although there were a few times where they were able to beat Morris around the edge. Buffalo mixed their blitzes, stunts, and other games up front fairly well, and they also did a nice job playing contain on Mahomes in the pocket. Although the Bills were able to notch two sacks and eight quarterback hits, Morris didn't stick out as a big negative, which is a solid performance for a reserve against a strong defensive front like Buffalo’s. We’ll never know how much A.J. Epenesa’s injury benefited Morris, but with the kind of season Epenesa has had, it’s safe to assume that his absence helped Morris tremendously.
CB Trent McDuffie
Man, those Kansas City corners are good. McDuffie was incredible in coverage, as he spent most of the day erasing Buffalo’s second wideout, Gabe Davis. He came on a few blitzes, as well, as the Chiefs and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo continued to creatively use him. McDuffie had a full stat sheet in the game, totaling six tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, and a pass breakup on the night. This is a really good defense, and when you have corners like McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed locking down outside receivers, that’s a big part of the reason why.