If the Chiefs make the playoffs, we're going to look back and be really glad for this game.
I mean, while it was happening it was just the worst. In the first quarter the Chiefs looked remarkably similar to the team that got molly-whopped by Green Bay and Cincinnati, with a smattering of resemblance to the team that crapped away potential wins against the Bears and the Vikings. The Chiefs first three drives netted a grand total of 34 yards. Sammy Watkins had something like 800 yards receiving in that same time frame. It looked ugly.
And it wasn't just the poor quality of play that made the game look ugly. Even as the Chiefs started to fight their way back into the game (we'll come back to that "fight" word later), injuries started raining down right along with the weather itself. And KEY injuries. Justin Houston is a fire-breathing dragon who is the most important player on the Chiefs defense. Eric Fisher has been a major part of Alex Smith looking more comfortable the last few weeks. Mitch Morse has been fantastic.
The Chiefs offensive line, already beat up and bloodied, was now starting to resemble a group you'd have lining up during the last preseason game. Again, this was some ugly stuff.
To be perfectly honest, when the Bills went up 16-7, I thought the game was going to get out of hand. Sammy Watkins had been so magnificent, and the Chiefs offense for the day had consisted of one big play that I don't think was actually a catch (does Rex Ryan not have guys up in the booth? He missed a few of those, and the plays he challenged were way more iffy. We love you Rex!).
In short, I didn't think the Chiefs could sustain any offense against a tough Bills defense, and the Chiefs defense was reeling. I sat back and started thinking about how I would write articles about an ugly loss after we all JUST started to hope again. We've talked a lot about how this Chiefs team wins, and it's widely accepted that going down multiple scores early was always going to be a recipe for disaster with this particular team.
Then Alex Smith chucked a 40-yard bomb to Jeremy Maclin, Spencer Ware started running over fools, and Travis Kelce started dancing.
I mean seriously, talk about a game changing play...
Smith stepping into pocket to avoid pressure, sticks the 40-yard bomb. Yeah, totally saw that coming... pic.twitter.com/bgcxtsYqq6— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 30, 2015
I'm not sure at what point I realized the momentum had shifted and the Chiefs weren't just sitting there dazed taking punches. All I know is by the time Kelce put the Chiefs up 21-16, I knew this game was different. The Chiefs weren't just going to get hit in the mouth and fold. They were going to throw some punches of their own.
There were a lot of things that changed for the Chiefs to come back and beat the Bills. Alex Smith started treating Maclin like the fantastic receiver he is and threw the ball down the field multiple times. Spencer Ware ran fools over almost every time he touched the ball (minor complaint on a game I mostly enjoyed; Reid should have given Ware the ball more to bleed the game out down the stretch. He can play). Sean Smith shook off the first half and stuck to Watkins much more closely. Tamba Hali...
Well, I'll have a separate paragraph for Tamba. Does anyone have more timely sacks and forced fumbles than Hali? It seems like in nearly every close win the Chiefs have Tamba made some big play during it to swing the tide. I keep preparing to move on from him (it's a brutal truth that it's a young man's game), and every week he does something to remind me that he's still here. I'm done thinking about when it'll be over. I'm going to just enjoy the here and now, watching Hali swat aside hands like so many annoying bugs.
But back to Buffalo. It seemed to me (and this is all just reactionary discussion. The film review will come later) that the entire attitude of the Chiefs was different than we'd seen. That was reflected, at least in part, in the play calling. We saw fewer of the quick screens that have started driving me crazy (one that was run near the end of the game was so predictable a Buffalo corner really should have picked it off. Hint, hint, Andy) and more shots to intermediate and deep zones. We saw some good old fashioned smashmouth football (though, again, not enough).
Basically, we saw and offense that allowed its playmakers (Maclin, Kelce, Wilson, Ware) to get things done, rather than an offense attempting to scheme its way to success. There was a sense of confidence that hadn't been there before.
Call me crazy, but a big part of that (despite not seeing the ball as much as I'd like) was Spencer Ware. I don't know how to describe it, but there's just a FEELING you get as a fan watching a running back get six yards when he should only get two. Seeing him lower his shoulder and bulldoze his way forward for an extra couple yards absolutely fires me up. Can you imagine how it makes his actual teammates feel?
You could see that excitement. You could see that sense of confidence. You could see that "yeah, this is gonna hurt, but it's gonna hurt them more" mentality.
One of Ware's runs made that mentality stand out to me more than any other. And no, it's not the run where he just completely flattened the Bills safety. I loved that play (you know that makes secondary players hesitant the next time), for sure. But as weird as it may seem, I loved this play even more. Third and three with just over a minute to go. The Chiefs essentially have the game won but can erase any doubt with a first down.
The Bills know the Chiefs are running. The Chiefs know they know. WE all know they both know. And Spencer Ware does this.
Might seem odd, but this is my favorite run of the day by Ware. Hit near LOS, just too strong to be denied. pic.twitter.com/xYkHD8XDM1— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 30, 2015
The AFC is wide open right now, and the Chiefs have another game with huge Wild Card implications next week against the Raiders (who are better than in years past, not to be taken lightly). If the Chiefs want to make the playoffs (never mind actually do something once they get there) they're going to need to have the ability to smile through a bloody mouth after getting punched. This game sure made it look like they will.
That's five straight. Now onto Oakland.