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5 things we learned in the Chiefs’ loss to the Bills

This was a heavyweight battle between two of the league’s best teams. Kansas City just came up short.

Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

On Sunday afternoon, the Kansas City Chiefs went toe to toe with the Buffalo Bills. It was a slugfest in which the Chiefs fell 24-20.

Here are five things we learned from the game:

1. The Chiefs need to get their secondary healthy

NFL: AUG 25 Preseason - Packers at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chiefs went into this game without defensive backs Rashad Fenton, Trent McDuffie and Bryan Cook. During the matchup, it looked like cornerback La’Jarius Sneed and safety Justin Reid were also banged-up for a play or two. Considering the circumstances, Kansas City’s secondary performed admirably — as they have for the majority of the season. But the fact of the matter is that the Chiefs are extremely thin in the secondary. It’s not just wise (or fair) to ask mid to late-round rookies to play man coverage on the outside.

There had been some thought that McDuffie might be able to play in this game. But as Friday wore on, it became apparent that the Chiefs would rest their first-round pick for one more game. Considering that the Chiefs drafted McDuffie to ensure that games like Sunday’s loss don’t happen in the playoffs, this makes sense. The Chiefs need to make sure he is 100% healthy before reinserting him into the lineup; they simply can’t afford to rush him back too soon and have him re-injure himself.

Luckily, Kansas City’s bye week is on the horizon. The team just has to get through this Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers before it gets a week off to get everyone back to full strength.

2. The Chiefs’ linebackers set the tone for the defense

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images

Right now, Kansas City’s linebackers are the best unit on that side of the ball — and it’s not even close. Led by MIKE linebacker Nick Bolton — who wears the green dot on his helmet, signifying that he is getting the plays from the sideline — linebackers are playing loose and easy, flying downhill to the ball and making plays.

Up to this point in the season, Bolton has done an exemplary job at getting the defense lined up in the correct position. He has also backed up his on-field leadership with stellar play; I don’t know if there is a better tackler in the entire league. While he may lack some pass coverage skills, he makes up for that with his intelligence — and an ability to make pre-snap diagnoses.

Next to Bolton, the Chiefs have another surprising player: Darius Harris. Filling in for the suspended Willie Gay Jr., Harris has not let this opportunity go to waste. In the four games he has started, Harris has 29 tackles, three tackles for loss and a pass defended. While I don’t think Gay is in danger of losing his starting spot, I do think that when Gay returns, Harris will have made a strong case to be the unit’s third linebacker.

3. Steve Spagnuolo had a great game plan

NFL: JAN 02 Chiefs at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One thing that might get lost after this loss is what a good game plan Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo brought into the contest. Early on, he seemed determined to play his defensive backs off the line of scrimmage in a bend-but-don’t-break style.

This allowed the Chiefs to cushion the impact of Buffalo's first few blows. Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a lot of completions in the first quarter, but the Chiefs still managed to keep Buffalo out of the end zone.

To complement this approach, Spagnuolo relied heavily on blitz packages to create pressure. In the second quarter, this worked remarkably well; Allen looked distressed and out of rhythm with his receivers.

Here’s the only problem with blitzing as much as the Chiefs did on Sunday: if the pass rushers do not get home, defensive backs are left one-on-one on the outside — as we see here when Josh Williams is smoked on the touchdown pass to Gabe Davis.

4. The Chiefs have the league’s best punter

Las Vegas Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Coming into Week 6, Kansas City punter Tommy “Thunder Strike” Townsend had punted the ball 15 times on the season for an average of 53.3 yards per punt — with a long of 74 yards. Add three more punts that covered an additional 173 yards against the Bills, and Townsend’s average comes up to an even 54 yards per punt.

As impressive as his punting has been, his uncanny ability to save his biggest kicks for when the Chiefs need them the most makes him dangerous. On Sunday, there were multiple instances where Kansas City was backed up deep in Buffalo territory. Townsend answered the call, flipping the field to ensure that the Bills would have to sustain long drives to win this game.

5. The Chiefs will be just fine

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

This game was hyped up as the league’s two greatest players squaring off against each other — and in that sense, the matchup did not disappoint. But what we saw on Sunday afternoon was two different players with two different skill sets — each of them playing their tails off.

Neither Allen or Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had perfect games. Both threw passes that they wish they could have back — especially Mahomnes’ last interception.

The biggest difference between these two players seems to be that while Mahomes scrambles around with his eyes downfield looking to make a play, Allen stays in the pocket, coolly surveying the field and picking apart the defense.

This gives Mahomes a benefit: being able to throw on the run. This makes him more apt to evade pass rushes and then make highlight-reel plays. The downside is that sometimes, Mahomes throws an interception when the team is down by four points with less than a minute left on the clock.

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