What was a really good and fun season for the Buffalo Bills came to a sudden and disappointing close on Sunday evening in Kansas City, losing to the Chiefs, 38-24 in the AFC Championship Game.
For the first time since Week 10, and only the fourth time all season, I’ll have to start with the Arrows Down:
The Bills quarterback just looked really uncomfortable all night, not seeing the field well and not reacting to what the Chiefs were doing defensively. That caused him to hold on to the ball too long, at times, as well.
Allen’s final stat line read 28-for-48 (58%) for 287 yards, a pair of touchdowns and one interception. He also ran seven times for 88 yards.
Allen had been sensational this season, but it was not a good night for the third-year quarterback.
Bills receivers not getting open
One of the main reasons the Bills offense scored over 31 points per-game in the regular season was the ability of their wide receivers to beat man-to-man coverage and Allen to find them.
On Sunday, they didn’t get open and Allen couldn’t get them the ball.
The Chiefs did a great job of covering Bills wideouts from the moment the ball was snapped throughout their routes. They couldn’t get separation.
Allen was under duress for much of the night. Part of it was holding onto the ball as he waited for his receivers to get open (see above), but the offense didn’t do a good job of giving him time, either.
He was sacked four times, losing 53 yards on those plays. The Chiefs were also credited with 10 quarterback hurries.
Devin Singletary’s drop
If there was one early play that may have changed the trajectory of the game, it happened just two minutes into the second quarter with the Bills leading 9-7 and facing a 2nd-and-7.
Allen hit running back Devin Singletary with a pass in the right flat, but Singletary looked up before he secured it and cleanly dropped it. He had plenty of real estate in front of him and would, most likely, have easily gained the first down inside Chiefs’ territory. Instead, it brought up third down.
On the next play, Allen was called for intentional grounding, so the Bills punted. The Chiefs went on to score a touchdown on their ensuing drive, never to lose the lead again.
Fourth down decisions
Right before halftime, the Bills drove to the Chiefs’ eight-yard line and had a 1st-and-goal. After three plays, they moved it to the two-yard line and faced a 4th-and-goal, trailing 21-9. Head coach Sean McDermott elected to kick a field goal instead of going for the touchdown.
Then with 5:52 remaining in the third quarter and trailing 24-12, they had a 4th-and-3 from the Chiefs’ eight-yard line. Once again, McDermott elected for a field goal instead of going for it.
There is no guarantee, of course, that going for it results in a touchdown or a first down in either case. The Bills could have come away with no points instead of the three they got on each trip.
But to beat the Chiefs you need to take more risks in order to score more points. It’s not just the math that matters, it’s the opponent, as well.
With Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on the other side, you know you’ll have to keep pace and can’t settle for a lower-score when a higher one is on the table.
McDermott has been pretty aggressive this season in those situations, and even went for a 4th-and-1 early in the game and converting it. But he didn’t elect to do that in these cases on Sunday, and both lessened the Bills' chances to come back.
Red zone offense and play-calling
This goes hand-in-hand with the above point.
The Bills got to the Chiefs' red zone five times, yet only scored two touchdowns, and one was after they started at the three-yard line after a muffed punt.
It also seemed like offensive coordinator Brian Daboll overthought it a few times when it came to play calls. The offense certainly wasn’t as sharp as it had been all season and the first two playoff games once they were in the red zone.
Game plan to defend Travis Kelce
The Chiefs tight end torched the Bills for 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a great player, but the Bills had no answer for him whatsoever. It didn’t look like they tried to double-team him at all, and left him wide-open far too often in the middle of their zones.
Kelce was especially good when Mahomes was moving, and he just made a slight move to separate from the defender nearest to him.
Defending Tyreek Hill in the second half
Hill caught three passes for 52 yards in the first half, which is pretty good. However, the Chiefs obviously made it a point to get him the ball early and often after halftime.
In the second half, Hill caught six passes for a whopping 120 yards, finishing with nine receptions for 172 yards on the night.
No one can match his speed, but the Bills made it worse by also not tackling him a couple times when they had the chance, including a catch-and-run that covered 71 yards.
Mecole Hardman’s run
With the Bills up 9-7 and the Chiefs with the ball on their own 18-yard line early in the second quarter, Kansas City ran an end-around to Hardman on the very first play of the drive. Several Bills defenders went the wrong way on the misdirection and Hardman was all alone. He raced 50 yards to the Bills' 32-yard line, and four plays later, the Chiefs scored a touchdown to go up 14-9 and never look back.
Lack of pass rush
The Bills hardly got any heat on Mahomes, and when they did, they ran right by him or let him escape. They were credited with one sack, which went to Jerry Hughes when he chased Mahomes out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage. They had a total of three quarterback hurries on the night.
Red zone and goal-to-go defense
As opposed to the Bills, who did not convert and instead kicked field goals, the Chiefs made their red zone trips count. They scored on 5-of-6 trips (40%) inside the Bills' 20-yard line, and all five inside their 10-yard line.
Third down defense
The Chiefs converted 6-of-10 third downs (60%), and also a fourth down attempt.
The second quarter
The Bills led 9-0 at the end of the first quarter. They were 45 minutes away from going to the Super Bowl.
Then it all caved in.
In the second quarter, Kansas City had the ball four times. Those possessions resulted in three touchdowns and then a kneel down at the end of the half. The three touchdown drives covered 80, 82, and 77 yards.
The Bills had the ball three times. They punted twice and kicked a field goal. The score went from 9-0 Bills to 21-12 Chiefs in less than 15 minutes.
After Singletary dropped the second quarter pass, Yeldon came in and played most of the rest of the game and played well. He carried the ball three times for 15 yards and grabbed four catches for 41 yards, totaling 56 yards of offense.
Bojorquez punted only three times, but two of them were down inside the Chiefs’ 20-yard line, including his first punt, which was muffed by the Chiefs and recovered by the Bills at the Kansas City 3-yard line. He averaged 49.3 yards per-punt, both gross and net.
Onside kick and muffed punt recoveries
It’s rare for the kicking team to recover an onside kick in the NFL these days due to the rules, but the Bills did.
Tyler Bass had an excellent kick that did exactly what it was supposed to do, which made it tough for the Chiefs to handle, and Tremaine Edmunds recovered it.
It was the second special teams recovery of the night for the Bills after Taiwan Jones recovered a muffed punt by Hardman in the first quarter.
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