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Final score: Chiefs outlast Bills 27-24, advance to AFC Championship

A tight, back-and-forth playoff battle with Buffalo once again went Kansas City’s way.

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

After playing 14 consecutive playoff games on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, the Kansas City Chiefs traveled to Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York on Sunday night, where they met the Buffalo Bills in the NFL’s Divisional Round. At stake was the opportunity to play the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC Championship and a berth in Super Bowl LVIII. The dream of back-to-back NFL championships remained alive for the defending Super Bowl champions as they dealt the Bills a season-ending 27-24 loss


First quarter


The Bills started with possession after Kansas City won the opening coin toss, deferring their decision to the second half. The opening drive started at the 31-yard line after a 27-yard return.

The Chiefs’ defense opened up playing aggressively, setting Buffalo behind the sticks when safety Chamarri Conner forced a fumble on wide receiver Stefon Diggs, leading to a penalty for illegal touching on the Bills. However, quarterback Josh Allen overcame it with a third-down scramble, lateraling to gain 16 yards when he needed 17. One play later, a sneak moved the chains.

On the next third down, Allen rifled in a completion to tight end Dalton Kincaid, beating close coverage by safety Deon Bush. The rookie playmaker followed that up with a quick screen that gave Buffalo a first down in the red zone. From there, the Chiefs’ defense stifled plays to running back James Cook — then defensive tackle Chris Jones batted down a third-down pass. Buffalo took the field goal, taking the initial 3-0 lead.

Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes came out making plays with his first chance, avoiding a sack then finding wide receiver Rashee Rice for a 26-yard gain on second down. Thenm tight end Travis Kelce found space at the second level to gain 14 yards and advance into Buffalo territory.

From there, the Chiefs shot themselves in the foot, running a screen play incorrectly and turning the big-play opportunity into a loss of yards. The unit had to settle for a field goal attempt, succeeding to tie the game at 3-3.

The Bills began marching with the ball again on their second possession, pacing the drive with an affective usage of James Cook. They worked to the Chiefs’ 17-yard line with an Allen scramble when the first quarter concluded.


Second quarter


Buffalo continued to control the line of scrimmage on offense, running at will to close in on a touchdown. Allen eventually took it in himself from five yards out, giving the Bills a 10-3 lead.

The Chiefs looked to answer by pounding the rock themselves, finding success on back-to-back handoffs to Pacheco to open the possession. Then, Travis Kelce found space down the field to set up inside the Bills’ 30-yard line. Looking for a touchdown pass to Kelce, the two were just barely off on a shot to the end zone. Another incomplete throw to the end zone led to the Chiefs settling for three points, closing Buffalo’s lead to 10-6.

With injuries piling up on the Chiefs’ defense, the reserves stepped up — like Conner making a strong tackle in the run game. On a downfield pass attempt, cornerback Jaylen Watson broke up the completion. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo used the blitz to force a short pass on third down, leading to the game’s first punt.

Using a short field, the Chiefs took advantage by continuing to run the ball. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire popped free for a 28-yard gain on the drive’s third play, setting up a big moment just outside of the red zone: a wide-open Kelce was found by Mahomes walking into the end zone, giving the Chiefs a 13-10 lead with three minutes to go in the half.

Before the two-minute warning hit, defensive end George Karlaftis chased down an outside run, tackling for loss and setting up second down and long.

Buffalo came out of the quick intermission with fire, gaining 15 yards on a completion to Diggs — then another 15 yards on a dump off to running back Latavius Murray. With time running down, Allen took off to gain 18 yards on a scramble, working to the Chiefs’ 12-yard line before a timeout was taken at 44 seconds.

A few Allen runs later, the Bills were in the endzone, taking a 17-13 lead with only 26 seconds remaining on the game clock.

After a screen pass led to penalties on the Chiefs, the offense conceded, going into halftime with the 17-13 advantage.


Third quarter


On the first play of the Chiefs’ drive, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling went deep from the slot position, hauling in a contested catch for a 30-yard gain. That set up Mahomes to make a huge play with his feet, faking out a cornerback to run into open field and work deep into Buffalo territory.

After a pass to Pacheco set up a fresh set of downs inside the five-yard line, Kelce took a quick screen completion to the pylon, finishing the team’s opening drive of the second half with a touchdown. His second score of the evening put the Chiefs up 20-17.

The Bills’ offense matched the effectiveness of the Chiefs, chipping away at Kansas City’s defense with runs and patient play by Allen. It took 15 plays, 75 yards, and over eight minutes, but it ended with Buffalo 13 yards away in third and goal. A scrambling Allen looked for wide receiver Khalil Shakir in the end zone, barely beating cornerback L’Jarius Sneed to make the touchdown catch. It put the Bills up 24-20.

The offensive shootout continued on Kansas City’s side, with Mahomes playing off of strong runs by Pacheco. On a play near midfield, Mahomes beat the blitz and found Valdes-Scantling downfield, gaining 32 yards and setting up inside the red zone as the third quarter ended.


Fourth quarter


After a quick screen to Rashee Rice moved the chains to get inside the five-yard line, Pacheco punched in a run — pushing the Chiefs’ lead to 27-24 early in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs’ defense needed a stop, and finally got it. A run stop by linebacker Drue Tranquill was followed by a batted down pass from defensive end George Karlaftis, forcing Buffalo to punt. From there, the Bills tried to catch Kansas City with a fake, and failed — leading to possession deep in Buffalo territory.

A huge run by Pacheco set the Chiefs up in prime position to take a commanding lead — but a carry by Hardman led to a fumble, and the ball went through the end zone. That gave the Bills possession at the 20-yard line, a demoralizing touchback.

With Buffalo looking at new life, the Chiefs’ defense stepped up once again. Cornerback Trent McDuffie flew into the backfield to earn a tackle for loss on first down, leading to third and long. On Allen’s attempt to convert, the downfield throw was almost caught; instead, the incompletion led to a punt.

The Chiefs had an opportunity to chew up clock and potentially extend the lead. The offense even took advantage of a defensive pass interference call that negated an incompletion on third down. However, Mahomes was unable to find a target on three straight dropbacks following that play, leading to an excruciating punt back to Buffalo.

Josh Allen came out firing on the Bills’ ensuing drive, looking deep down the field for Diggs on first down; the pass fell incomplete with safety Justin Reid in coverage. Buffalo used quick passes to its tight ends on the following plays to move the chains, then Allen used his feet to creep near midfield.

Under six minutes on the clock, the Chiefs worked into third down, and got the stop when Chris Jones forced a scrambling Allen to fumble; the Bills did recover, then convert the ensuing fourth down into Kansas City territory.

The Bills converted another third down a few snaps later, leading into the two-minute warning from the Chiefs’ 26-yard line.

Needing nine yards to convert, the Bills failed to complete two passes — leading to a field goal attempt on fourth down. That kick was missed, giving the Chiefs possession with a three-point lead, only needing a first down.

Two runs by Pacheco got that done for Kansas City, putting the game out of reach for the Bills. A few kneeldowns later, the Chiefs were advancing to their sixth-consecutive AFC Championship with a 27-24 final.


Injuries


Safety Mike Edwards stayed on the ground after a collision, breaking up a pass during the first drive of the game. He went to the medical soon after. Later in the game, he was ruled out from return with a concussion.

Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. left the game in the second quarter, ruled questionable to return with the neck injury that popped up on the team’s radar Saturday; he was later ruled out.

Cornerback Trent McDuffie went down after a play in the second quarter, leaving the field for a stretch of plays. He returned to the lineup after one possession.

Left guard Joe Thuney left the game early in the second half with a chest injury; he was immediately ruled questionable to return.


Special Teams


Kicker Harrison Butker nailed a 47-yard field goal to cap the team’s first drive of the game. In the second quarter, he made a 29-yard attempt. After the Chiefs’ first touchdown in the second quarter, Butker made the point after.

Butker made his second point-after attempt of the night in the third quarter. He hit a third in the fourth quarter.

Punt returner Richie James earned 15 yards on an important punt return in the first half.

Punter Tommy Townsend’s only punt went 49 yards, ending in a touchback.

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