If we thought that the Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots matchup was going to be our biggest playoff game, we were sorely mistaken. The postseason matchup that most of the league has been waiting to see is arriving one round early, as we take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead on Sunday night. We may still have some demons left over from the 2021 AFC Championship, which saw the Bills ousted in a disappointing and painful fashion, but most of those were exorcised back in Week 5 of this season.
A Due Revenge
The 2021 AFC Championship was a bad day for Bills fans. Our team had us rolling about as high as we’d been since the ‘90s, maybe even longer, and there was only one hurdle left to leap before we found ourselves back in the Super Bowl. Kansas City quickly squished that out of us, and into the offseason we went; full of worry and hurt.
You don’t get over that sort of slight quickly but, after a bad season opener, the Buffalo Bills started to roll again. They made their way to Arrowhead once again, sitting at 3-1 and ready to re-insert themselves into the fight for the #1 seed in the AFC. The shadows of the past loomed large.
The Bills were in for a tough start, plagued by penalty flags. One such penalty was confusing… The Chiefs committed a holding penalty and somehow ended up five yards further downfield than where they’d started the play. Holding would become something of a theme, as Buffalo held Kansas City to a field goal. In response, Buffalo came out swinging. On the back of Allen’s legs, not arm, they powered down the field. His dashes of 22, 11, and 9 yards would put us ahead as he took a designed run in for a TD.
Twists Of Fate
Things took another turn in our favor, as Siran Neal’s forced fumble on the kickoff return was recovered by Andre Smith Jr. Tragically, we’d be forced 19 yards the wrong way and out of field goal range, where the drive had started. The ensuing punt went for a touchback. The Chiefs avoided disaster. K.C. followed up with a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ate a whopping eight minutes. The Buffalo Bills defense was reeling, being attacked in all the areas that they’d struggled in to start the year.
Conveniently, the offense started to churn once again. Five plays, two minutes, 75 yards. Josh Allen found Diggs for a first down, then Zack Moss for 24 yards more, and Emmanuel Sanders for a 35-yard TD. Buffalo stepped into a lead they wouldn’t lose. The defense woke back up to force a quick Chiefs three-and-out, but Buffalo looked to be stalling too before Allen found Diggs for a 61-yarder.
He dumped us on the K.C. 11 in no time, but the drive stopped there. Tyler Bass made a perfect kick for three points.
Misfortune and Fortune Again
Then, Bass made a mistake. On the kickoff, he let it fly out of bounds, giving an aggressive opponent opportunities they didn’t need to take. Starting at his own 40, Mahomes flashed with his legs for 23 yards, into Buffalo territory. K.C. was aware that they were going up against a hot opponent, and they needed control of the game back quickly. They didn’t want a field goal, they needed a touchdown. Instead, they turned it over on downs as Poyer nearly picks off a deep pass attempt to a well-covered Travis Kelce.
As a result, Buffalo had the ball at their own 32, with two minutes left. The Bills ran an effective two minute drill up until that point of the season, and they did it much faster this time. Two plays: A 15-yard pass to Moss, then a 53-yarder to Dawson Knox for all the marbles.
Bad Conditions, Worse Conditioning
As he went streaking into the end zone, a cool wind blew in. Bad weather was coming; the storm that had been ever-present on the horizon was closing in. Unfortunately, Buffalo had left too much time on the clock. The Chiefs own a great offense, and they were able to use the final minute to secure a long field goal. It was 24-13 Bills. The sides went to the tunnel and the rain began to pour. No one really knew when they were going to come out again.
The lightning delay was upon us, and it was one of the worst weather delays of the past few seasons. In a late Sunday Night Football game, millions of fans were sitting at home and twiddling their thumbs. Many viewers went to bed, and made peace with simply finding out the score in the morning. Some bars closed, leaving patrons looking for somewhere to find an answer.
Inside the stadium, the concourse was filled to the brim with fans from both teams that simply couldn’t stay out in the weather all night. A great many went home too, or back to their hotels; better to risk missing out than perhaps risking their health. Below the stadium, two locker rooms full of players were trying to avoid stiffening up. Two teams of coaches were game planning for the second half, and doing everything they could to keep their guys ready. It wasn’t going to be enough. Such an immense amount of sitting around during the interruption was bound to have an effect.
A Slow Re-Start
The Buffalo Bills started things off again with a three-and-out. In exchange, Kansas City didn’t do much better, and returned the ball to us. Allen found Knox for another huge 41 yard gain before Haack unfortunately boots it away one more time to K.C.’s eight-yard line. It had been a long break, but as the two teams’ bodies began to loosen up again, and the crowd rediscovered the fire that the rain had so lovingly extinguished, a football game broke out.
Nowhere To Hyde
Unfortunately for the home team, time was wearing on. They were down by 11 points against a fellow AFC contender with possible playoff implications down the road. Despite the cold and the wet, they were still throwing it. On third down, Mahomes hit Hill in the hands, but he couldn’t reel it in and the bobbled pass was caught by Micah Hyde, streaking towards the end zone for a pick-6. In the span of ten seconds, Buffalo had gone from worthy visitors to dominant conquerors.
K.C.’s Comeback Attempt
The Chiefs got the ball again, now down three scores. Buffalo could burn clock. They had to go for it before it was too late. It was fourth-and-five on their own 32-yard line, and a Mahomes pass sailed right into the hands of his receiver, who promptly dropped it. That cursed, familiar yellow streak appeared on our screen, and the Chiefs drive was given new life by an egregiously poor roughing the passer penalty called on Ed Oliver, who had been blocked directly into the legs of the quarterback on the play.
Once bailed out, K.C. started moving fast. In no time at all, they’d driven to the Buffalo Bills’ eight-yard line. On first-and-goal, Mahomes tried to side-arm a pass past rookie DE Greg Rousseau, who tipped it into the air and caught it for an interception. His efforts may have prevented a score, but on the other side of the ball they were in vain. Buffalo did nothing with their fresh possession, and a poor punt gave the Chiefs the ball back at midfield.
With 16 minutes still left in the game, things were far from over. The Chiefs had proven capable of scoring with impunity and they did, aided by a questionable pass interference call against Tre’Davious White. Still, in only two and a half minutes, Mahomes shoveled the ball to Travis Kelce for the score. There was plenty more work to be done. They had no time to celebrate.
The Nail In The Coffin
Some less confident fans may have thought things were going to fall apart, as Isaiah McKenzie muffed the catch on the kickoff. McKenzie recovered it well, moving it up to the 15-yard line before being brought down. What happened next was the end of the game, but it wasn’t easy. The Buffalo Bills got a tough third down conversion called back for offensive holding and then, on 3rd-and-19, Allen’s pass is intercepted.
The doomsayers felt it was over, but the rare yellow streak in our favor appeared. Roughing the passer, a 15 yard penalty. Automatic first down. The coaches come to the realization that they should trust in their franchise quarterback to get the offense moving again, and Josh delivered. Big Time. On the following third down, he fled the pocket to the left, heading directly for L’Jarius Sneed. Sneed went low for the tackle, and Josh went high for the first down.
With a wide variety of throws, routes, targets, and a few carries of his own, he lead the offense on a drudging, consistent, eight-minute touchdown drive to essentially secure the win.
Kansas City’s last drive was more for pride than anything, but Mahomes mishandled a snap and, after an extended ball chase, White leaps on it to return it to the offense one last time. Allen and friends kneeled out the game, as the then-boogeymen of the AFC were stuffed and put on the shelf.
Round Two: Fight
A lot has changed since that early-season matchup, but one thing is for sure: These are two of the best teams in the NFL. Elite quarterbacks, a plethora of weapons, and game-breaking defensive standouts and stalwarts. The game has it all, and it’s sure to amaze. Stay tuned for Sunday night.