For the first time since the 1993 season, the Buffalo Bills are gearing up to play in a AFC Championship Game with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.
The last time the Bills played for the AFC title was on Jan. 23, 1994 when they faced the Kansas City Chiefs, where Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas rushed for 186 yards and three touchdowns, en route to a 30-13 win in Orchard Park. That win helped punch Buffalo's ticket to their fourth-consecutive Super Bowl.
Fast forward nearly 27 years later, and the Bills and Chiefs will meet again this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium for the chance to play in Super Bowl LV on Sunday, Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The Bills will have to find a way to outdo the best offensive unit in the league in Kansas City, who have been led by 2018 NFL MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP, Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs ranked No. 1 in the regular season, averaging a whopping 415.8 yards per-game. However, the Bills were not far behind in a tie for second with the Tennessee Titans, averaging 396.4 yards per-game.
As for Mahomes, he may not have ranked as the best passing quarterback in the National Football League this past season, he did lead the Chiefs in total passing offense with an average of 303.4 yards per-game. Right up there with Mahomes was Allen this season, who helped the Bills to a third-best passing offense in the NFL, averaging 288.8 yards per-game.
However, there is plenty of uncertainty heading into Sunday's matchup, specifically with Mahomes. The 25-year-old quarterback was forced to leave this past Sunday's matchup with the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Divisional Round after being placed in the concussion protocol following a tackle made by linebacker Mack Wilson. Mahomes' head not only hit the Kansas City turf, but his neck was also strained in a way that left him unstable as he tried to get up.
As of Wednesday, Mahomes was expected to take part very lightly in practice, as he makes his way back from the NFL's concussion protocol. It is expected that his work throughout the week will ramp up, which is likely a good sign of his status for Sunday against the Bills.
If Mahomes is unable play on Sunday, the Chiefs would be forced to turn to 35-year-old backup quarterback Chad Henne.
Earlier in the 2020 season, the Bills hosted the Chiefs in Week 6, where Kansas City was able to get their run game going in a 26-17 win at Bills Stadium. While the Buffalo defense did a good job containing Mahomes and his arm, they let rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire run wild to the tune of 161 yards.
It is likely that the outcome of this Sunday's AFC Championship Game will not resemble what happened back in October in Orchard Park.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott is gearing up for his first conference championship game as a head coach in the NFL. He was the defensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers in 2015 when the team beat the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl 50.
McDermott took some time on Wednesday to join Howard Simon and Jeremy White as part of his weekly appearance on WGR. He talked about his team gearing up to play in the AFC title game, while also expressed his thoughts on playing the Chiefs for a second time this season.
Here is some of what he had to say:
McDermott on playing in the magnitude of a game like the AFC Championship Game:
"There's no substitute for experience, on one hand, but on the other hand, don't make it anything that it's not. You want to keep everything in perspective, and at the end of the day, we're going to go out there and play football and you don't want to make it bigger than it is. I understand everyone's assessment of the situation, but from a performer's standpoint, let's stay in our routine and let's keep proper perspective so we can go out there and be the best version of us."
McDermott on the team's preparations for playing in the AFC title game:
"Just the other day, we met, we kind of got our week started. You've got to do the best you can to limit and eliminate distractions, or ignore the noise. The second thing is we've got to put in a lot of work early in the week here so we can get ourselves ready to go. That's really not anything new, but I just wanted to reinforce that."
McDermott on the trust in Josh Allen heading into Sunday's matchup with the Chiefs:
"We're extremely confident in Josh. I'm excited to watch him play. Again, you try to keep it as routine as possible. You've got 10 other guys around him that are going to help him, and a few more coming off the bench that can add into that. He's got to do what he's done all year, and we'll be fine."
McDermott on facing the Chiefs for a second time this season:
"They're tough to stop, and any coach in the league would tell you that. They've got really good players and really good coaches that are doing a phenomenal job, and have been together a number of years to build this thing. I think that's a big piece of it. You want to be mindful of them and the big plays they are able to create, because that's the quickest way to get behind and for things to get out of whack there a little bit."
McDermott on the improvement of the defense throughout the 2020 season:
"The players have done a really good job, and the defensive staff have done a really good job developing. That's why you hire coaches. Talent is one thing, and you either have talent or you don't, or certain levels of talent on the roster, but what we get paid to do as coaches is to develop the roster. I've been extremely impressed with the way the coaches have developed and the players have taken ownership. ... I think, as a head coach, [it's been] fun to watch those players to develop and the coaches working with them and putting the time in. I think that's pretty cool."
You can listen to the entire interview below: