For last week’s rivalry history, against the Houston Texans, click here.
With the Texans behind us, the Buffalo Bills now prepare for their upcoming matchup against the reigning AFC Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. As we do in this series, we look forward to games by looking back at the previous ones, and there are a lot of them. It’s been a thrilling back and forth in the 50 games these two teams have played against one another. Though Buffalo proudly holds a narrow lead at 26-23-1. The series didn’t start against these Chiefs though, but rather a team based a little further south.
The Dallas Texans
In 1960, when forming the AFL (the precursor to the modern AFC), Lamar Hunt believed that the original Dallas NFL team, the Dallas Texans, had failed not due to a lack of market but a lack of organization around them. He founded the new AFL Dallas Texans as the NFL countered with it’s own Dallas Cowboys. The NFL’s pre-existing popularity would drive the Texans out of town in 1963, despite their own significant success, and on to Kansas City, where they were obviously in need of a name change.
|Dal 45-28 Buf||Buf 7-24 Dal||Dal 24-27 Buf||Buf 30-20 Dal||Buf 21-41 Dal||Dal 14-23 Buf|
The Bills and Texans split the series 3-3 prior to the move, with a healthy mix of blowouts and close games. The first game after Kansas City’s move was the closest of all – the first of only eight ties in Buffalo Bills history. The series wouldn’t remain deadlocked for long. Buffalo would win each of the next five games with a total point margin of 161-97.
|KC 27-27 Buf||Buf 35-26 KC||KC 17-34 Buf||Buf 35-22 KC|
|Buf 23-7 KC||KC 25-34 Buf||KC 42-20 Buf||Buf 29-14 KC|
The Road To Super Bowl I
Fun Fact: The starting lineup for Buffalo in this game featured six men who’s names would go up on the Wall of Fame, including Hall of Famer Billy Shaw. Shaw is the only player in the Hall of Fame to never play a snap in the NFL.
The Bills’ dominant run would end in painful fashion, during a freezing, rainy New Year’s Day in 1967. The 1966 AFL season had all but concluded, with only four quarters left to decide the AFL Champion. The winner would go on to play against the NFL’s best in the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game (Super Bowl I). It started on the wrong foot and stayed there, as the Chiefs’ punter would recover the opening kickoff after a fumble by DE Dudley Meredith. Buffalo would immediately go down by seven.
Buffalo, reigning two-time AFL Champions and proud owners of home field advantage, had high hopes. But, after a tough 7-7 first quarter where the only bright spot was a 69-yard TD grab by Bills Wall of Famer Elbert ‘Golden Wheels’ Dubenion, things somehow took a turn for the worse. Kansas City, behind future Hall of Fame QB Len Dawson, found their footing against a usually stingy Buffalo front seven, taking two drives up the field for ten points to close out the first half and putting Buffalo in the hole.
The second half went almost as well as the first for our Bills, as a scoreless third quarter would wear out our defense. By the time the curtain came to fall, Kansas City had firmly supplanted us as the reigning AFL Champs. The fourth quarter turned into a rout, with two late-game scores by Chiefs RB Mike Garrett closing the book on what everyone had known since halftime. Kansas City was going to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for what would be retro-actively called Super Bowl I. Victims of a 31-7 beatdown, Buffalo’s season had ended. They would not beat KC again in the AFL era.
“[The] loss to the Chiefs is my worst memory from my career as a Bill. That hurt so bad. And it still hurts.”– Bills Shaw to Buffalo news, January 2021
|KC 31-7 Buf||Buf 13-23 KC||KC 18-7 Buf||KC 29-7 Buf||Buf 19-22 KC|
After the AFL-NFL merger, Buffalo and Kansas City would lose that fervor that overcame them, and the rivalry faded into obscurity. The new-look NFL was forming fresh rivalries left and right. With these two in separate divisions, the fire between them would only be fanned every once in a while. As these two former AFL powerhouses fell into mediocrity at the same time, their history was all but forgotten.
|Buf 9-22 KC||KC 14-23 Buf||KC 17-50 Buf||KC 13-28 Buf||Buf 10-14 KC||KC 9-14 Buf|
|Buf 14-9 KC||KC 20-17 Buf||Buf 17-14 KC||Buf 6-33 KC||KC 14-37 Buf||Buf 7-23 KC|
The 1993 AFC Championship: Revenge for ‘66
Fun Fact: Marv Levy coached on both sides of this rivalry. He led the Chiefs for five seasons (1978-82, 1-2 vs. Buffalo) before his legendary Bills tenure (1986-96, 5-3 vs. Kansas City).
Then after 20 years, it reared it’s head once more. The golden years of Bills history were wearing on, and Kansas City had finally figured out how to get what they needed to win. The Chiefs were able to buy the pieces they needed to take their team to the next level (Joe Montana and Marcus Allen in particular). There was just one obstacle between them and Super Bowl XXVII. The Buffalo Bills were coming off three-straight AFC Championship victories and were, understandably, the favorites to do it all again. Montana had impressed during his first season in KC and Allen would earn Comeback Player of the Year for his efforts, but anything can happen in a single-game playoff series.
Thurman Thomas would open the game with a 12-yard rushing TD, cutting the Chiefs apart for the score, before Nick Lowery’s two FGs would even the game out. Thurman was the workhorse for the day, bringing the Bills a full score lead with his three-yard TD in the second quarter, followed by Steve Christie’s two successful field goals. A Chiefs drive before time expired would come up just short as Montana would throw an interception to Henry Jones from the Buffalo five-yard line. Buffalo was controlling the game 20-6 going into the half.
The roles reversed from the ’66 AFL Championship. Things began to fall to pieces for the Chiefs as, after only three plays, Montana would leave the game with a concussion. His backup, Dave Krieg, would do exactly as good a job against this Buffalo defense as Montana had done, leading a single scoring drive for 90 yards, ending with a one-yard TD run by Allen.
That was all the scoring they had left in them it seems, as it would be all Buffalo from there on out. Steve Christie would put another one through the uprights, before Thomas’ third TD of the day would close out the game and send the Bills to their fourth-straight Super Bowl appearance. “Thurm” would finish with 208 total yards and three TDs on the day. Possibly the last great moment of the legendary ‘90s Bills, both this rivalry and these teams would fade away one more time.
|KC 10-44 Buf||KC 9-20 Buf||Buf 16-22 KC|
Interlude: The Drought Era
Today, these two teams are about as good as they’ve ever been, maybe even better. But pride comes after a fall, or something like that. Kansas City quickly receded into their formerly mediocre selves, and Buffalo were something worse than that for far too long. These teams’ re-sparked hatred was short-lived, and it would return to its resting place until a game we’d all sooner forget.
|Buf 21-17 KC||Buf 16-17 KC||Buf 5-38 KC||KC 3-14 Buf||Buf 54-31 KC|
|Buf 16-10 KC||Buf 10-13 KC||Buf 41-7 KC||KC 17-35 Buf||KC 23-13 Buf|
|KC 17-13 Buf||Buf 22-30 KC||Buf 16-10 KC||KC 26-17 Buf||Buf 24-38 KC|
The 2021 AFC Championship
Look, I don’t want to talk about this. Yes, I know it’s important to the history, but I’m not happy about it. This was perhaps the most painful loss in recent Buffalo Bills history, and there’s no overselling that.
The 2020 season was the single greatest year for Bills football since the days of Jim Kelly’s team battering down the AFC. Buffalo didn’t know how to take it easy last season and it showed. The offense blew the doors off the NFL and shattered most of the franchise records set by some of the greatest players to ever dress in Buffalo colors. The defense was good too, with plenty of plays like Taron Johnson’s 101-yard pick-six to secure victory against the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round. They weren’t enough.
The 2020 AFC Championship game opened up as well as we could have really hoped. On the opening drive, the Bills’ offense battled though terrifying defensive line pressure to get into range for a long Tyler Bass FG, which he hit from 51 yards out. We would force a quick three-and-out, get the ball back, and go partway downfield before stalling out ourselves. On the ensuing punt, KC’s returner Mecole Hardman fumbled the catch leading to a recovery for Buffalo on the three-yard line by Taiwan Jones. Allen would toss the next play to Dawson Knox for a touchdown. After a missed extra point, Buffalo would lead 9-0.
Hardman would redeem himself in the second quarter, catching a three-yard TD from Mahomes on the ensuing 80-yard drive. They finished it strongly too, for on their next possession Hardman would take an end-around for 50 more yards to set up the go-ahead score. Kansas City wouldn’t relinquish their lead. They scored a third TD on a rush from the one-yard line, putting up 21 points on three drives in only ten minutes. A chip-shot Tyler Bass field goal would shrink their lead to nine as the half expired, a move Sean McDermott would quickly be crucified for. You don’t settle when playing a team like the Chiefs. The score was 21-12.
The defense improved on the first drive of the half, limiting KC to a long-range field goal. But another short kick on fourth-and-three from the eight-yard line would cost Buffalo the chance to shrink the lead to a single score. It was on this play call that the game may have been decided. The second play of KC’s next drive would go 71 yards to Buffalo’s four-yard line, and Travis Kelce would punch it in shortly after. Josh Allen’s knack for throwing balls into tight windows is usually a boon, but it was our downfall on the next drive, as his throw bounced off John Brown and into the arms of cornerback Rashad Fenton for an interception.
After their first drive, the Chiefs would score on every possession they had (minus kneel-downs). Our linebacker core and secondary couldn’t cover both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at the same time. They took that interception at midfield, and the offense marched 58 yards to put up their last score on us as things got extremely ugly.
Josh Allen and company finally got the ball rolling, settling into the four-minute drill in an attempted comeback, pushing the ball 75 yards for a TD in 10 plays spanning only three and a half minutes. They would immediately recover the ensuing onside kick, as well. A short drive ended in a 51-yard field goal, but they wouldn’t get the ball back again. KC would recover the kickoff, and the game would end on a Mahomes kneel-down. Call it revenge for ‘93, I guess.
Back to the Present
But where does that leave us? Buffalo has been on an absolute tear since the disappointing week one loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Kansas City has proven they have flaws for us to exploit. With that loss still fresh in the minds of our coaches and players alike, expect some fireworks. We’re mad, rolling, and ready for game day.
Sunday Night Football. 8:20PM EST. Don’t be late.
For next week’s rivalry history, as we take on the Tennessee Titans, click here.