The Buffalo Bills traveled to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in what felt like the most “must-win” game we’ve seen in a long time. Before we get to the next “must-win” game, let’s take a moment and reflect on the thrilling victory over Buffalo’s AFC rival. Much has been said about the Bills, and plenty of digital ink has been spilled on a certain penalty this week, but in this author’s estimation we haven’t sung the praises of the defense quite enough just yet.
Toward that end, let’s look at the end of seven KC drives that failed to yield points, and explore what Buffalo did to shut down Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, Travis Kelce, and the collective positive energy of millions of Swifties.
Kansas City had a good drive going to start the game. For the record, I was about to type a reassuring message of: “Don’t forget the defense usually allows a score or two before settling in” our team chat. Defensive end A.J. Epenesa decided to make my message irrelevant. I have you focus on the action before the tip. Epenesa gave a shove to keep himself clean of the block. I’ll reiterate for likely the millionth time that “grabbing” is not the same as “holding.” Offensive linemen often latch on, making the jump and tip hard to do. Not for Epenesa who took care of business solo.
Note: While not confirmed and I don’t usually like to highlight injuries, take a look at the end of the play and the knee that drives into Epenesa’s ribs. This could be the injury.
Prior to the game, I highlighted the on-paper matchups and noted that Kansas City has not allowed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to be sacked all that often — but that the Bills had a better shot to do it than most teams. This was it, but there were plenty of QB hits to go with it. This was from a four-man rush on 3rd & 7. The coverage was excellent. Mahomes had nowhere to go with the ball and held it just a touch too long. While KC had a couple good plays to start the drive, this five-play run was short-lived.
This played out very similar to the last drive, with a major exception that the Chiefs had only one okay play in the series. After a three-yard run and an incomplete pass, the Bills once again had excellent coverage. The ball was all but forced to be thrown underneath where the completion was easy, but the yardage wasn’t. Nickel cornerback Taron Johnson cleaned up short of the sticks for a three-and-out.
This drive went for seven plays and 36 yards. A tackle for a loss was followed by a dropped pass on second down right before this play. On this third down snap there were a couple options for Mahomes to gain the necessary yards. Tight end Travis Kelce was open after what could be a flag as cornerback Rasul Douglas fell to the ground (no call seems fine too). However, the pocket was already shrinking and Mahomes looked elsewhere. The pass was drastically behind for another incomplete to end the drive.
Note that Buffalo’s first play of the series forced KC to gain extra yards. The added distance and inability for Mahomes to move around with complete freedom made this throw harder than usual.
Like the interception above, drive context isn’t as important with a forced turnover. The highlight here is that cornerback Christian Benford was wrapping up but not the ball carrier. Instead he held on to dear life with the ball itself. If the carrier wants to move forward it requires a tug of war with the prized possession being the prize of possession. Benford stripped the ball and Taron Johnson recovered.
Several drives ended with a series that included “three-yard run, incomplete pass, failure.” This was one more to the list. A five-man rush with a delay created some havoc, which Mahomes and company weren’t completely ready for. Mahomes’ mechanics broke down and the pass was errant and harmless. Also of note is that the coverage was good enough to force tough decisions that were only tougher with the blitz ready to hit home. This was one of the aforementioned QB hits.
This is the infamous Kadarius Toney drive. Y’know, the flag that single-handedly ended the Chiefs’ drive to tie or win the game. Right? Eh... not quite. The flag on Toney followed an incomplete pass on first down. That meant instead of the touchdown on what looked like a pretty awesome play, Kansas City was set up with 2nd & 15.
That meant to keep the drive alive, they needed to average five yards a play or more, three times in a row. After all, there was over a minute left in the game. Kansas City had two time outs left, and were already at midfield needing three points to at least force OT.
I really, really feel like this needs to be reiterated. With over a minute left in regulation and two timeouts, Kansas City had three plays to gain 15 yards to keep their hopes alive. They had time and opportunity.
How far did they get? Zero yards. Zero. Yards. Buffalo forced three straight incompletions including this one to seal the game. Mahomes’ pass sailed over Travis Kelce’s head in large part thanks to defensive end Leonard Floyd landing another quarterback hit.
The Final Straw
The Buffalo Bills’ offense obviously did plenty to win the game, but let’s note that 20 points is a fairly average performance overall. Personally I was banking more on Buffalo’s offense finding some opportunity to win a shootout rather than a defensive battle with the Bills coming out on top. I mean, seriously, the Bills are an injury or two away from hosting fan tryouts and signing the likes of me just because I happen to be defensive back height and weight. Note: I have a desk job and asthma. I am not a good candidate, but it’s getting desperate.
Patrick Mahomes is a fantastic player. Buffalo didn’t allow him to scramble (one rush attempt) or improvise. They flustered him with their coverage. They hit him on a routine basis. Most importantly, they limited scoring opportunities. Some luck was involved as there tends to be. Drops are notable on that side of the ledger. However, turnovers were merit-based, as were the pressure and coverage wrinkles that showed up time and again.