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Chiefs-Bills rapid reaction: Kansas City is no longer the ‘gold standard’ of AFC

The Chiefs came out of Sunday Night Football with a difficult truth to face.

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs lost for the third time in four games — a 38-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills in a rematch of last year’s AFC title game. When Bills quarterback Josh Allen was asked about the matchup heading into it this week, he played down the idea of redemption, instead acknowledging Kansas City as “the gold standard” of the AFC.

By taking down the Chiefs, Allen felt his Bills would take a step closer to becoming that — a new gold standard. That is what mattered to the Buffalo quarterback — and he came out of the gate like it mattered, punching the Chiefs defense in the mouth.

After the Bills defense held the Chiefs to three points, Allen carried the ball three times for 42 yards on their opening drive, including keeping the ball on an option and running nine yards for the first touchdown of the game. Allen finished with 62 rushing yards in the contest.

If the opening-drive ground show wasn’t enough, the quarterback utterly gashed the Chiefs’ defense on Sunday night. Allen picked on Daniel Sorensen twice — once on a 61-yard pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs and then later on a 53-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox.

NBC cameras caught safety Tyrann Mathieu throwing his hands up in the air in disbelief on both occasions.

Allen was so efficient through the air in the first half, he was averaging 31 yards per completion (seven completions for 219 yards) at the unbearably long, rain-filled halftime break. It wasn’t all on Sorensen, as linebacker Anthony Hitchens appeared lost and running backward on a 24-yard gain by running back Zach Moss, and Knox had his way with rookie Nick Bolton and later Rashad Fenton later in the game.

The lengthy rain delay seemed to aid the Chiefs in turning it around, as it forced three punts to start the second half. The only problem is that at the same time, things went sideways for the Chiefs offense. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw interceptions on back-to-back drives, including a Micah Hyde pick-six off a bad drop by wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

The problem the Chiefs have right now is that with the defense flirting with being among the league’s worst, it needs to be outstanding for the team to come out with a win. And sure, Frank Clark’s roughing-the-passer call was soft, but so was Ed Oliver’s fourth-down roughing-the-passer call.

Like other opposing teams this season, the Bills adjusted by playing deeper coverage against the Chiefs, elongating their drives and essentially buying plays to possibly force turnovers or stops. The Chiefs ran 17 plays on their opening drive, yet they went 56 yards and had to settle for a field goal. Getting the Chiefs to run more plays means greater opportunity for an interception return.

Since the Bills have one of the league’s best defenses, they were able to force two punts and turned the Chiefs over four times. At times, there is no other way to say it, but the Bills made Mahomes look ordinary. Opposing teams typically try to take away Hill or tight end Travis Kelce. The Bills managed to keep both at bay for most of the game. Through three quarters, Kelce had less than 60 yards and Hill had less than 50.

Potentially losing running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was just another aspect of a bad night at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs learned a hard truth: Allen was wrong as he talked to the media ahead of the game; the Chiefs have fallen far from the gold standard of the AFC.

They are under .500 for the second time this season, and with a 1-3 record in the conference, the lone AFC bye is most likely unattainable. There is a lot of season left — especially given that additional regular-season game — but the Chiefs will be in a dogfight with the 4-1 Los Angeles Chargers for a division, and they will probably have to win an additional playoff game on a tough road to their Super Bowl-or-failure season being deemed a success.

It is what it is. So now... how will the Chiefs respond?