As strong as the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has been this season, the battle with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Round proved how hard it is to top great offense. Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen fed off the consistent rushing attack to make many plays against Kansas City, using his arm and legs to push for a chance at the AFC Championship.
Coming off three touchdowns over four drives, Allen and the Bills looked ready to overcome the 27-24 score they faced in the fourth quarter — but that became the final tally. From there, Buffalo went three-and-out twice: one preceding a failed fake punt, then missing the game-tying field goal.
After taking a constant beating all game, the Chiefs’ defensive front dug its feet into the dirt and fought back to finish the win. Star defensive tackle Chris Jones summed it up with one word during his post-game press conference.
“It’s just all about being relentless,” Jones told reporters. “[Allen] is a dynamic quarterback, a dual threat who can throw the ball 65, 70-plus yards, but he can also break off 50-yard runs; you saw it last week, what he’s able to do with his legs. We just try to limit his playmaking ability, especially on the ground. We can’t stop him per se, but we can try to contain him.”
Early on, Allen used his legs in critical spots, scoring the team’s initial touchdown from five yards out. In a key moment late in the first half, Allen gained 18 yards on a second-down scramble. When that led to a 17-13 lead for Buffalo at halftime, it was clear the Chiefs’ defense needed to tighten something up.
“We made a few adjustments in the locker room on how we were going to rush him,” Jones revealed. “We changed up the rushing lanes, changed up the way we rushed him — and we were kind of successful with it. We still could’ve done better, but we were able to get a victory, and that’s all that matters.”
After the break, Allen’s running was not as prevalent; he just made an incredible touchdown throw to take a 24-20 lead. Chiefs’ pass rushers started to affect Allen more, like when defensive end George Karlaftis batted down an important pass late.
It was similar to Jones' play on Buffalo’s opening drive, which limited a promising drive to a field goal.
“I was getting double-teamed at the nose,” Jones recalled. “My job was to just collapse the pocket, and if he steps up, be in position to chase him. I saw the ball coming out and gave it the Shaquille O’Neal swat.”
The two batted passes led to stops for the defense, but neither were as big a play as the pressure Jones put on Allen during the last possession. Looking to take the lead, Buffalo appeared to find room for a touchdown throw — but a powerful bull rush by Jones disrupted Allen’s followthrough, leading to an incompletion.
With the elite coverage helping the pass rush so many times this season, the flip side happened in a crucial moment. It was a fitting theme in the mind of linebacker Nick Bolton.
“We trust the front, we trust the back end to give the defensive line some time,” Bolton talked about during his post-game press conference. “The second-level guys and third-level guys working together, understanding whatever the defense is called, trusting we’re going to be in the right spot at the right time, not trying to overdo stuff... we stayed the course, kept the togetherness, found a way to get a win.”
On the throwing end of that big incompletion, rookie safety Chamarri Conner was the exploited player in coverage. Jones helped mask a play that could’ve been a very unfortunate overshadow of the performance from Conner; he filled in for safety Mike Edwards after he suffered an injury early.
“He had a huge game for us,” Bolton asserted about Conner. “He is one of those guys that plays multiple positions for us, plays some Nickel, plays some safety, moves around a little bit to use his skillset. For a young guy to come into Spags’ scheme, it speaks volumes to his ability to learn, his want to learn... I’m proud of him.”
The aggressive play of Conner started early, forcing a fumble on the first play of the game, but this defensive performance was about finishing strong, once again. The struggles through the first three quarters were made up for in the final period, including the pass rush turning it up at the most important time.
The relentless mindset has fueled the Chiefs’ defense to many second-half comebacks this season, but none felt quite as sweet as this.