Kansas City Chiefs 20, Buffalo Bills 24
On Sunday afternoon, two heavyweight fighters went to battle and stood toe-to-toe until the very end. It was a playoff atmosphere inside Arrowhead Stadium as the top two teams in the NFL — not just the AFC — faced off. It came down to the final drive. Each team flexed its muscles and each walked away bruised — but only the Bills get to take the victory home.
It was a slow and methodical approach from the Kansas City offense. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was once again forced to scramble around, using his Houdini act to avoid the Bills’ pass rush. He was sacked three times — twice by Von Miller. He threw two interceptions. One ended the first drive, while the second ended the Chiefs’ last possession. He matched those with two touchdown throws and 338 yards — plus 21 on the ground.
Orlando Brown Jr. played a solid game at left tackle, keeping Miller at bay on a few occasions — but on the right, the Bills’ pass rusher took advantage of Andrew Wylie for the majority of the contest. On one play in particular, Miller beat Wylie with an inside spin move that was way too reminiscent of Maxx Crosby’s sack in Week 5. At times, the offensive line played like Swiss cheese — and it needs to be fixed. The protection simply isn’t at the standard the Chiefs have set for themselves. Even with the strength of the interior, the outside gets exposed too often.
Juju Smith-Schuster went off, catching all five of his targets for 113 yards — including one spectacular 42-yard catch and run that went for six. Travis Kelce again eclipsed the century mark, but was held out of the end zone. Skyy Moore made his typical lone highlight play — and was the target on the final pass that was intercepted. His usage — or lack thereof — is becoming a weekly topic of conversation. We’ll see if the game plan for San Francisco includes him more often.
The running game didn’t exceed anyone’s expectations, mustering only 68 total yards. Clyde Edwards-Helaire accounted for 33 of those. The offense was not leaning on the ground game at all — and it doesn’t look like Isiah Pacheco is going to be cutting into any more carries than we have seen already.
Overall it was a below-average outing for the Kansas City offense. Mahomes struggled to stay clean and the turnovers were uncharacteristic. The 20 points on the scoreboard was the season’s second-lowest total — and the matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7 will be another big challenge.
Offensive Player of the Game: wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster
Smith-Schuster looked youthful against the Bills, showing a burst that we haven’t seen very often. The 46-yarder he took to the house was (by far) the best offensive play of the night — and his first touchdown in a Chiefs uniform. Aside from the questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he drew, he looked good for the whole game. While No. 9 has been inconsistent to start the year, he was smooth as silk against Buffalo.
The formations in which the Bills were lining up forced the Kansas City defense to stay in its base package with three linebackers on the field. This was clearly Buffalo’s game plan: taking advantage of Willie Gay’s absence. The linebackers were forced to cover more often than usual — and they were exposed a bit.
Nick Bolton was all over the field — and played a big part in keeping the Bills from doing too much with their powerful running scheme. Rookie Leo Chenal played a lot of snaps, as did Darius Harris. Those three served as the second level in base. Devin Singletary gashed the defense a few times — averaging five yards a carry — but the real damage came through the air.
Coming in, we knew the secondary was going to be pushed to its limits. Injuries to the group forced rookie Joshua Williams to play a much bigger role than he might have been ready to handle. He was the victim on two long pass plays — one to Gabe Davis and the other to Stefon Diggs. Each time, he was playing man-to-man — and he was simply beaten. While it wasn’t fun to watch, the experience will make him a better cornerback.
The defensive line was solid. A few guys made plays. Carlos Dunlap was in on a few — one of them a deflected pass at the line of scrimmage. Late in the game, Chris Jones made his biggest impact taking Allen down on a sack that gave Kansas City a chance to extend their lead at the time. Khalen Saunders remained consistent — and was in on some quarterback pressures from the interior.
Defensive Player of the Game: linebacker Nick Bolton
Bolton might end up being the marquee draft pick of general manager Brett Veach’s young career. No. 32 is rapidly building a reputation as one of the league’s best linebackers. In just his second professional season he has earned the green dot on his helmet — and he routinely makes special plays. On Sunday, the former Missouri Tiger racked up 13 tackles: nine solo and two behind the line of scrimmage.