Up until the very end of the Kansas City Chiefs’ 24-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs’ defense had done nearly all you could ask against one of the league’s most explosive offenses.
The Bills were held to three points until the final seconds of the first half — and then late in the fourth quarter, were stopped on two consecutive drives that could have set up the Kansas City offense to take control of the game.
The Chiefs, however, couldn’t score to take advantage — and a 12-play, 76-yard Buffalo drive in the game’s final minutes ended with the game-winning touchdown pass.
The strong effort is now nothing but a mark in the loss column — but the Chiefs’ defenders aren’t naive; they know there are no moral victories. But there are lessons to be learned from a loss — especially for the young group that played on Sunday.
“You learn a lot — especially in a game that’s this magnitude,” linebacker Nick Bolton reflected in his post-game press conference. “It’s probably the closest thing you can get to a playoff atmosphere in the regular season.
“I’m real proud of our young guys — our young guys stepping up when their number was called. Going out there and executing the game plan, playing fast, playing confident [and] giving us a chance at the end to win the football game.”
Nick Bolton: “We gotta get better but I’m proud of where we’re at.”— Aaron Ladd (@aaronladd0) October 17, 2022
The youthful players include rookie cornerback Joshua Williams, who started as the outside cornerback in Nickel packages for the first time in his career; he was filling in for injured cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and Rashad Fenton. He was the defender in coverage on both touchdowns that Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen threw to wide receivers — one to Gabriel Davis and another to Stefon Diggs.
As his teammates become healthy, Williams could end up back on the bench — but he’ll now have this experience to draw upon.
“All the coaches, my teammates — the [defensive back] crew — keep me in good spirit,” Williams asserted. “I don’t feel defeated. I know at the end of the day, I’m going to get better from this. I’m going to be a fantastic player — regardless of what people think. I’m just going to keep going, keep working [and] keep getting better.”
At times, Allen certainly got the better of Williams and other Kansas City defensive backs — but that’s to be expected. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Although the Chiefs corralled him for a decent chunk of the game, the dam broke open on Buffalo’s last touchdown drive.
Safety Justin Reid was the coverage defender who was beaten on the last score; on another play, Allen hurdled over him. He saw how central Allen is to Buffalo’s offensive success — especially down the stretch of a game.
“When it comes down to the end of the game, 17 — the [Bills] are going to put the ball in 17’s hands,” Reid explained after the game. “They had a bunch of quarterback-designed runs in that last two series. They’re able to make some good things out of it, so we just going to have to make sure we do a good job containing them — because we will be seeing the Bills again. We already know it. We are just going to have to come out and play our game.”
Many members of the Chiefs’ defense had a similar takeaway: they know they’ll see Buffalo again. They will use this game to be ready for that rematch.
“Yes, we definitely feel like we will,” linebacker Darius Harris said of the team’s chance to face Buffalo again in the playoffs. “Next time, we’ll make sure that we clean up the corrections for this game — and just know what we’ve got to do better when we see those guys down the road.”
“Oh, of course we’re going to see them again,” said defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi. “[We’re] going lights-out every single time we come across each other, so it’s a type of game that you should really keep seeing. So I believe we’re going to see them again.”
The experienced players will be ready for that — mostly because of how many times these two teams have faced off over the years. But they also feel good about how much the young players learned from Sunday’s battle.
“As vets, we kind of already believe in those guys,” Bolton said of the defensive rookies. “I just feel like this game gave them more confidence. That’s kind of what it’s about. I believe... what? It’s game six? Yeah, six. So we’ve got a long way to go — so just them building confidence and them [keeping] going and keep believing in themselves is going to be huge down the stretch.”
Would the defense have liked to close the game out? Absolutely — and they had the chance to do so. While they failed at the end, their strong effort throughout the afternoon allowed the Chiefs to be in striking position until the final minute.
The defense will be able to use both the positive and negative takeaways from this game to get even better for the next time these two teams play — a postseason rematch feels inevitable.