Sunday’s showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills was as close and difficult as everyone expected. Both defenses played pretty well overall. The difference was that the Buffalo pass defense made a lot of plays, while Kansas City’s defense (with a few key players out of the lineup) struggled both up front and in the secondary.
The Chiefs' offense still had a number of opportunities to salt this one away, but made enough errors to ensure the Bills could escape. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes — who some might argue belongs on our losers list — made bad decisions in two key situations to hand the ball to the defense. One cost them a touchdown and an early lead. The other ended the final drive of the game. But otherwise, Mahomes had a pretty solid night, feeding two of his big veteran targets over 100 yards each and fitting in some other tight passes. Some of those counted, while some others were called back due to penalties.
All in all, it was one of those games that could have gone either way. It feels like the “best” loss the Chiefs will have all season. The schedule doesn’t let up after this — so neither can the team.
Let’s take a look at a few Chiefs who stood out on Sunday.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: This veteran wideout was due. After struggling a bit a week ago — when he landed on our losers list — he put up a very efficient performance, catching all five of his targets for 113 yards to lead the team. He also scored from 42 yards out, breaking tackles on the way to his first touchdown as a Chief. His performance was exactly what we should expect a No. 1 wide receiver to be providing.
Travis Kelce: The tight end was great again — even though he didn’t finish with a touchdown. He continued to be a model of consistency, finding ways to get open for Mahomes when he needed a play. The quarterback rewarded Kelce with 10 targets that led to eight catches for 108 yards. There was one back-shoulder play that could have been a touchdown — but was broken up at the last second — and then there was an offensive pass interference call on Kelce that wiped out a long gain. We can’t really blame Kelce for either of those — but they were just the kinds of plays that would normally cap off another great day for him.
Harrison Butker: It was great to see the Chiefs kicker back on the field. He immediately paid dividends with a team-record 62-yard field goal. Of course, he followed that up with a miss from 51 yards — but hey, two out of three isn’t bad. Besides... those three points wouldn’t have changed the outcome anyway. Down the stretch, he’ll have more chances to win games.
Nick Bolton: While the Chiefs’ defense once again struggled with tackling, Bolton was solid as usual. His thirteen tackles led the team — including two tackles for loss. He did get beaten in coverage, but that’s to be expected. Otherwise, Bolton continued to be a leader of this defense — and when he had a chance to hit someone, he was very effective .
Joshua Williams: It was always going to be a tall task for the rookie to step in for Rashad Fenton. Williams — along with the rest of Kansas City’s young defensive backs — was facing impossible matchups: Buffalo wideouts Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs. Each scored a long touchdown at William’s expense. Bills quarterback Josh Allen clearly saw a one-on-one matchup he could exploit. Williams will learn from this experience — and should become a good player for this team — but Sunday just wasn’t his day.
Andrew Wylie: I think we all knew it was going to be an issue. Buffalo’s Von Miller terrorized the Chiefs’ tackles, forcing a field goal, punt and an interception with his two-sack, multiple-pressure game. In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to wonder if Kansas City will find a way to put an alternative to Wylie on the field.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire: In the past, the running back has come up big against the Bills — so it was reasonable to expect him to be a big part of the offense. Unfortunately, the Chiefs still don’t seem to know how to use Edwards-Helaire — and he was ineffective in the opportunities he did get. On a day when they couldn’t get anything going on the ground, he led Kansas City running backs with nine carries. Maybe it’s because they insist on sending him parallel to the line of scrimmage, where he’s at his worst? He also didn’t have a target in the passing game, where he’s been really good this season. Instead, Mahomes threw to Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco — with only a limited amount of success.
The Kansas City pass rush: While it’s well-known that the Bills acquired Von Miller specifically to beat the Chiefs, it’s clear that Kansas City didn’t do enough to bolster its own pass rush. Frank Clark and Chris Jones had a couple of moments, but they didn’t get pressure on Josh Allen consistently enough to hold him when it mattered. The lone sack of the day was on a play where Jones probably should have been flagged for tripping. Other than blitzing more — which exposes the young secondary — the Chiefs have to find some way to bring quarterbacks down at the right moments.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: While Smith-Schuster had his biggest day as a Chief, Valdes-Scantling ended up getting blanked on three targets. He did have a touchdown that was called back on a penalty, but he also failed to bring down a jump ball in the end zone that became Mahomes’s first interception. In the rotation of good wide receiver games, I guess it just wasn’t Valdes-Scantling’s turn.