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Bills in the Trenches Week 5: @ The Kansas City Chiefs

How the Bills new-look front five can keep this hot streak alive and how the defense can continue to exert their dominance against KC.

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Houston had a problem last weekend as the Bills laid the smack 40-0. Buffalo dominated this game on both sides of the ball for sixty minutes, not losing any ground through four quarters.

The Bills surprised some when they brought out a new-look offensive line to start the game. Rookie Spencer Brown got his first NFL start at right tackle, while Daryl Williams moved inside to right guard. Ike Boettger returned to the starting five at left guard. Though a little shaky at times, it may prove to be the Bills’ best mix of the season.

As for the defensive line, they continued their string of superior performances. They completely shut down Houston’s offense for the entire game. Despite missing two of their main rotational linemen with injuries, Buffalo demonstrated its ample depth. Players who hadn’t played a snap this season, like Carlos Basham, filled in seamlessly for the starters.

This week, the Bills visit a familiar foe: the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo was manhandled at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in both of last year’s matchups. Though it’s painful to dwell on it, the Chiefs just plain ripped our hearts out and stepped on them. What a terrible memory.

The Chiefs remain one of the best all-around teams in the league, but they’re beatable. They sit at the bottom of the AFC West with a 2-2 record featuring losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens. 

They’re a different team than they were last year, having retooled somewhat since being humbled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. None of their five starting offensive linemen were on the Chiefs roster last season. Meanwhile, the defensive line looks very similar to its 2020 makeup.

The Bills’ previous games against Miami, Washington, and Houston were important. It showed they are much a better team than the one that lost to the Steelers in Week One. This week’s matchup against the Chiefs presents an excellent opportunity to gain complete control of the AFC. Given the Chiefs’ rocky start to their season, this is the perfect time for Sean McDermott & Co. to capitalize in primetime on Sunday night. 

And it all starts upfront.

Offensive Recap 

Grade: A-

From start to finish, the Bills’ offense was able to move the ball so freely against the Texans because of the solid play of their new-look offensive line. Their stalwart performance demonstrated why they should start for the remainder of the season. They were responsible for 199 rushing yards and two rushing scores while relinquishing only one sack for a five-yard loss. 

Each of the five hogs was solid. Yes, I was concerned when I saw that Daryl Williams moved inside to right guard, as he struggled mightily at that position while in Carolina, but he impressed me. Ike Boettger was also slow in some aspects of his game but also exceeded my expectations. Neither was perfect, but both had great games.

As for Mitch Morse and Dion Dawkins, they proved why they had no reason to lose their jobs. My only real knock is on Dawkins, is letting up the only sack and nearly knocking over Josh Allen mid-throw, but he improved steadily as the game progressed. 

After the Houston game, McDermott subtly confirmed that this version of the O-line will be the starters moving forward.

“I think it’ll continue … I like some of what I saw … and we just have to continue to get better. So as we sit here today, I expect that to continue.”

Sean Mcdermott

I can’t necessarily disagree: this game was easily the most secure I have felt about the interior all season. 

Does this mean that the Cody Ford experiment is over? I think so. What about Jon Feliciano, who missed the game with an injury but is physically ready to return this week? It’s a slap in the face to him if he doesn’t play this game, especially after he laid out Alek Okafor to protect Josh Allen in the AFC Championship game last season. Who knows? Solid depth never hurt anyone. 

MVP: Spencer Brown

It was only a matter of time until third-round selection Spencer Brown saw more playing time, and man, did he impress. He was a force throughout, displaying his athleticism on virtually every play against Houston. I see him as the Bills’ right tackle of the future for many years to come if he can continue performing at this level.

Offensive Gameplan 

Starters: LDE: Chris Jones*, LDT: Jarran Read, RDT: Derrick Nandi, RDE: Frank Clark, WLB: Nick Bolton, MLB: Anthony Hitchens

Notable Subs: LDE: Alex Okafor, RDT: Khalen Saunders, LB: Dorian O’Daniel, LB: Ben Niemann

Despite having the most superior offense in all of football, the Chiefs’ defense is nowhere near that level. 

This will be the first 4-2-5 defense the Bills have faced this year. It’s one that they need to take advantage of. According to ESPN, Kansas City’s defensive unit is the second worst in the league. Kansas City’s defense currently ranks in the bottom three in rush defense (146.0 YPG) and the bottom six in pass defense (291.5 YPG).

That said, I’ll give them some credit. They’ve played against three of the best offenses to start the season, with a win against the Cleveland Browns and losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens. 

But Buffalo may be their toughest challenge all season.

To make matters worse for them, defensive lineman Chris Jones has been listed as questionable for this game. I never ever root for injuries, of course – it’s always better to play (and beat) a fully-staffed team – there’s no denying his absence would provide the Bills with a huge advantage. 

Both aspects of Buffalo’s offense will be on full display here. Expect Josh to work his magic, as always, and the run game to be on full throttle with Moss and Singletary splitting reps (even though it’s quite evident that Moss has earned a majority of the carries this year).

Defensive Recap

Grade: A

Last season, the Leslie Frazier-led Bills’ defense looked lost all season. This year, it’s a vastly different story. Through the first four games, Buffalo’s D has shown it may be the best in the NFL. 

Statistically, according to ESPN, the Bills’ defense has been No. 1 in the league since the second game of the season, boasting two of the highest graded players at their positions (Matt Milano and Micah Hyde) and only allowing 21 points in total (all against Washington) over their last two games.

While the offense had a great game against the Texans, a good deal of the 40-0 shutout was largely credited to the defense. LB Tremaine Edmunds won AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. Not to take anything away from him since he did a great job, but you could have given similar recognition to the entire defense based on how they played as a unit. 

Houston only managed to produce 115 yards of offense, while QB Davis Mills was sacked three times and threw four interceptions: one each to Edmunds, Jordan Poyer, Jaquan Johnson, and Tyler Matakevich. A lousy performance for the Texans, a great showing by the Bills. 

Buffalo’s front seven led the way by eliminating Houston’s run game. Greg Rousseau continues to impress, Ed Oliver looked incredible playing against his hometown squad, and second-round pick Boogie Basham recorded his first career sack in his first game as an NFL player.

MVP (Not Named Tremaine Edmunds): Star Lotulelei

But one player I continue to talk about is Star Lotulelei. Yes, Tremaine had a spectacular game and continues to pick it up these past few weeks, but this defense would not function the way it has been if it wasn’t for the return of #98. 

Lotulelei picked up his second sack of the season and led the way in shutting down the run by drawing double teams on every play. This allows guys like Oliver to make big plays, something the Bills missed desperately last season. None of the three Texan running backs gained more than 25 yards, and a majority of that can be credited to Lotulelei.

Defensive Gameplan

Starters: LT: Orlando Brown Jr., LG: Joe Thuney, C: Creed Humphery, RG: Trey Smith, RT: Lucas Niang

Notable Subs: C: Austin Blythe, G: Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, T: Andrew Wylie

The Bills’ defense will now face the biggest test of the season against Kansas City. Not only do the Chiefs still have their star-studded offense led by QB Patrick Mahomes, they now have a new and vastly improved offensive line.

During the offseason, Chiefs’ general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid were able to pry All-Pro guard Joe Thuney away from New England, trade for Pro Bowler Orlando Brown Jr., and draft All-Americans Creed Humphery and Trey Smith. On paper, anyway, they are much better compared to last season. But that’s just on paper, of course. 

But there’s a weak spot. And as much as I hate to say it – since I played against him in high school in my home state of Connecticut – it’s right tackle Lucas Niang. 

In a game that will be very pass-heavy for the Chiefs, getting to the quarterback is a MUST. Niang has struggled in his first season as a starter since sitting out 2020 due to COVID-19. I expect Hughes, Rousseau, and any other end lining up against him to have big games if they can expose him early.

Of course, TE Travis Kelce is the player to stop. He was all but unstoppable in both 2020 matchups against the Bills. Through four games this season, he still is. I pray Matt Milano is active for this game despite a nagging hamstring injury because if he’s not, Mahomes and Kelce will have a field day.

To no one’s surprise, this week’s game plan should be to focus much more on the pass. Getting to Mahomes, who’s easily the best quarterback of this generation, is crucial. 

If you watch last year’s AFC Championship game again (which I did – not easy!), the Bills got big-bodied on both sides, but primarily on the defense. Getting big guys like Rousseau and Basham and getting Lotulelei back helps tremendously, but the defense needs to perform at their best if they want to have a shot at a win.

Wrap Up

The Bills must win this game to prove to the NFL that Week 1 was a fluke. This year, Buffalo’s opponents have a combined record of 5-9 to start the season. The Chiefs’ record isn’t great either, but they’re still the kings of the AFC until someone shows otherwise. This is the Bills’ chance to take that crown and run with it. 

If you still haven’t gotten that image of Stefon Diggs watching the Chiefs celebrate their victory last season, this is the game for you. 

This game is winnable. The Chiefs have looked shaky on defense. If the Bills can come out firing on all cylinders, a 4-1 record and top-dog status in the AFC is well within their grasp.

Disagree with what I said? Tweet at me! @RubinsteinPete on Twitter.

Sources:

  • Defensive rankings courtesy of ESPN
  • Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference 
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