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Instabreakdown: Inconsistent offense dooms Chiefs’ late surge against Bills

After Kansas City’s defense settled in against Buffalo, the offense tied the game — but then couldn’t finish.

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

In Week 14, the Buffalo Bills came into Arrowhead Stadium and dealt a 20-17 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Offense (Caleb James)

Once again, inconsistent play from the offense doomed the Chiefs. While Kansas City was able to pick up 346 yards of total offense, the unit was unable to convert in key moments.

Patrick Mahomes was 25 for 43 passing, throwing one touchdown and one interception — which came off a tipped pass — but when the game was on the line, he was unable to convert.

This was much less on Mahomes than it was on his wide receivers. While Rashee Rice led the group with seven catches for 72 yards, no other ideout caught more than three passes — and the disconnect that has been there for most of the season was once again present.

The Chiefs committed two turnovers — the tipped interception and a poorly-timed fumble by Rice.

Running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon both had decent games — with McKinon scoring a touchdown — but neither had a run longer than seven yards.

The Chiefs’ offense went just 6 of 12 on third downs — and late in the game, had multiple chances to drive down and score.

Travis Kelce showed up for the Chiefs — but even with six catches for 83 yards, it felt like the Bills were able to contain his performance.

On the team’s final drive, Mahomes completed a deep pass to Kelce, who then turned and threw a long lateral to Kadarius Toney — who scored. Unfortunately, the officials flagged Toney for lining up illegally. That put Kansas City into a second-and-long situation.

Two plays later — after his last pass went incomplete — Mahomes went into a rage on the sideline; his frustration had clearly boiled over.

Offensive Player of the Game: Wide receiver Rashee Rice

Rice showed up in the biggest moments of the game — and even had a late-game reception to give his team a chance. Although most of Rice’s receptions came near the line of scrimmage, the rookie was able to make a difference for Kansas City.

His fumble hurt — but his ability to bounce back (and continue to be involved in the game plan) helped Mahomes’ attempt to put the Chiefs in a position to win.

In the future, Rice will certainly be a key player in Kansas City — but he still needs to work to hold onto the football in big moments.

Defense (Ron Kopp Jr.)

For the Chiefs’ defense, it was a tale of two halves.

In the first 30 minutes, Buffalo controlled the game with a strong focus on running back James Cook. On the ground, he found room to stay ahead of the sticks, leading to an average of 5.8 yards per carry for the game.

Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen also found Cook up the seam for a 25-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Buffalo’s pre-snap motion forced movement in the Chiefs’ secondary — which was already covering for a blitz. That put linebacker Nick Bolton in a tough position, trying to pick up Cook from the backfield while also working through a tight end releasing into a route. Safety Mike Edwards could have helped by not overcommitting to the motion, which left the middle of the field wide open.

On Buffalo’s second scoring drive, the offense used another pass to Cook to beat another Chiefs blitz. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. was sent off the edge, leaving defensive end George Karlaftis to drop back and pick up Cook. But the Bills’ outside receiver disrupted his path, leading to a wide-open wheel route that gained 27 yards.

For the second straight week, it was a rough performance for Kansas City’s linebackers. MIKE linebacker Nick Bolton was back on the field, but looked timid and rusty in his return. He was manipulated in the running game and also by Allen — especially on the quarterback’s touchdown run; Bolton wanted no part in being physical on that play.

After the initial touchdown drives, the defense did settle in — because it forced more third downs. Late in the first half, Allen was forced out of the pocket on third down, throwing across his body. Rookie safety Chamarri Conner jumped the route and made his first career interception.

In the second half — trailing 17-14 — the Chiefs’ defense looked much better, forcing two consecutive three-and-outs that gave the offense a chance to take the lead. L’Jarius Sneed defended a slant to Stefon Diggs on third-and-3, breaking it up and forcing a punt. And then Trent McDuffie blitzed on third down, coming through untouched to wrap up Allen; he held on until Mike Danna helped him complete the sack.

In general, the Kansas City pass rush was able to harass Allen, forcing many of his scrambles and incompletions. Defensive ends Charles Omenihu and George Karlaftis each finished a sack, while defensive tackle Chris Jones tallied three quarterback hits. At one point, the pass rush nearly closed out the game — but while an incredible, improbable play from Allen gave Buffalo new life, the defense eventually forced a fourth down and a field-goal attempt.

Defensive Player of the Game: Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed

In the latest matchup with a No. 1 wideout, Sneed did all but shut out the Bills’ Stefon Diggs. Buffalo’s star wideout was targeted 11 times on Sunday afternoon, catching just four passes for a total of 24 yards; his longest reception earned just nine.

Sneed finished as the team’s third-leading tackler, adding three passes defended to strengthen his case for the Pro Bowl — or even an All-Pro selection.

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