How sweet it is! The Buffalo Bills went into Kansas City as 2.5-point underdogs and left with the best record in the AFC (tied) after smashing the Chiefs 38-20.
Rivalries are good for the league and Bills-Chiefs is the premier matchup in the AFC. Even though Kansas City was 2-2 heading into the game, a win would have made both teams 3-2 and given the Chiefs the inside track on potential home-field advantage. They had already lost at home to their division rival Chargers this season and both their losses last season came at home and within their division (Chargers, Raiders). So, it’s quite possible that the aura of invincibility has worn off.
Buffalo clearly studies the tape of what has and hasn’t worked against KC and after losing to them twice last season, once during the season and then again in the AFC Championship Game, and they built their roster and game-planned accordingly. After holding the Chiefs to a field goal on the first drive of that game, the Bills’ used a little Baltimore action and ran the ball right down the throat of the KC defense. It was an important moment that showed that Buffalo didn’t make the trip just to play scared.
These are professional athletes so I don’t think they were ever really scared but the Bills needed to go out and play their brand of football, as Emmanuel Sanders said in the week leading up to the game. That’s exactly what we saw. Anyone who has watched the Bills this season can tell you that their defense has been the best in the league so far, but the conversation outside of Bills Mafia was all about how the Bills haven’t played anybody so their defense didn’t count as good or, at least, hadn’t been proven yet. I don’t know how a team with two shutouts in four games and the highest points differential in the league isn’t proven yet but, on Sunday night, they got to silence the detractors live on national television.
Buffalo stifled the vaunted Chiefs offense all night long and walked out still holding onto the #1 scoring defense in the league. I have the Bills’ defense in fantasy and people were telling me to sit them or find another defense, but I knew this group was legit and enjoyed every second of that performance. Buffalo forced turnovers on three of the Chiefs’ final four possessions, including Micah Hyde’s pick-six.
Buffalo’s offense was looking pretty darn good too. Even on a rainy night at Arrowhead, Josh Allen went 15/26 for 315-yards and 3-TDs while tacking on 1-carries for 59-yds and a score. The accuracy wasn’t incredible on a rainy night, but some of the throws he made were just insane. Anyone who’s questioning Allen’s play or his status as one of the best QBs in the game because they are checking out his stat line is just missing what’s directly in front of them. By comparison, Patrick Mahomes threw the ball 54 times and didn’t break 300-yds and also had 2-interceptions (one pick-six) to go with his 2-TDs. He did run it eight times for 61-yds but also lost a fumble in there too. One game doesn’t etch anything in stone, but Mahomes has now had trouble with turnovers in each of the Chiefs’ three losses, including two younger QBs coming into his home stadium and outplaying him and there’s no question who was better on Sunday night.
The officiating has been highly suspect throughout the NFL season so far and, depending on who you’re cheering for, the odds are you are going to think the refs cost you this game. The timing of certain calls brought that into question, but I’m not going to nitpick the penalties because the Bills won despite the flags. It did, however, raise questions about pass interference and its enforcement. I thought the penalty was challenge-able now and I would have liked to see that get tested because the Chiefs were getting that call and the Bills weren’t. One of those, in particular, came on a play where Travis Kelce sort of pulled Tre’Davious White down with him. The contact wasn’t that bad but, although I can understand KC wanting that call, the ball wasn’t catchable on the play. So, there should have been no penalty anyway. I would have liked to see Sean McDermott challenge the call just to make the refs accountable because it would have drawn a focused replay on national TV during the game of the week. It is what it is, but it sure looked like there were some refs who had something more than their job responsibilities invested.
I’ve been saying all year that the Chiefs play an arrogant brand of football and that it’s starting to bite them in the ass. They turned the ball over four times in their home loss against the Chargers (iirc) and they did so again here against the Bills. I’m not here to say the Chiefs are a bad team, they definitely are not and that takes away from what the Bills did. Their defense sucks more so than usual, but I’m just happy to see that their style of football is getting beat by hardworking young teams with good defenses.
Dawson Knox continues his ascension as one of the league’s most dynamic playmaking tight ends. He burned KC deep twice and finished with 117-yds and a TD on 3-catches. Stefon Diggs is quite in comparison to last season, but he’s still on pace to get to about 90-receptions and over 1,000-yds by game number 15. For right now though, it’s the Emmanuel Sanders show. He has been the model of consistency all season and tacked on another 3-grabs for 54-yds and 2-TDs. These three guys are playing so well in conjunction with a dominant defense and effective ground game, that Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis are just hanging out watching.
Zack Moss and Devin Singletary didn’t dominate the Chiefs’ defense the way I thought was possible, but they did exactly what they were supposed to do and ran hard in the second half. They only combined for 62-yards on 17-carries, but it was the philosophy from offensive coordinator Brian Daboll that I liked to see. The Bills were up 11-pts at the half and getting the ball to start the second half and, with a defensive performance as we had seen, it made me happy to see them come out running. Yes, they punted on their first three possessions of the second half in some heavy rain but they valued the clock and situation. In total, they ran the ball 9/12 times on first down in the second half and made the Chiefs press more being down two scores and the turnovers were a direct result.
Despite the weather conditions, the extended delay at halftime when the Bills had all the momentum, and the hostile road environment, this was probably the most complete game I’ve seen from this team during their rise. They did what they wanted to do on both sides of the ball and managed the game remarkably well, which they struggled to do in previous meetings with the Chiefs. I know the fans and the players had this game circled on the calendar, and revenge is a dish best served cold, wet, and on the road. Go Bills!
Performance Grade: A+
Buffalo doesn’t have the luxury of basking in this win as they head to Tennessee to take on the Titans in another primetime AFC showdown next Monday. The Bills lost to the Titans in Buffalo during the regular season last year, but have typically done pretty well containing Derrick Henry. That’s easier said than done, of course, but the Bills’ defense is in a great position to make life difficult on Tennessee. The Titans’ defense is pretty abysmal too and they struggled with the Jags early so, as long as the Bills remain focused on that next game mentality and don’t let the KC game get to their heads, they’ll be ready to go.