If we thought the Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots game was going to be our biggest playoff game, we were sadly mistaken. The postseason game most of the league has been waiting to see comes a round early, as we take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead on Sunday night. We may still have a few demons left from the 2021 AFC Championship, which saw the Bills disappointingly and painfully ousted, but most of them were exorcised in Week 5 of this season.
A due revenge
The 2021 AFC Championship was a bad day for Bills fans. Our team rode us as high as we’ve been since the ’90s, maybe even longer, and there was only one hurdle left before we ended up in the Super Bowl. Kansas City quickly knocked that out of us, and we went in the offseason; full of worry and pain.
You don’t recover quickly from this kind of lightweight, but after a bad season opener, the Buffalo Bills started rolling again. They traveled to Arrowhead again, sitting 3-1 and ready to re-enter the fight for the AFC No. 1 seed. The shadows of the past were piling up.
The Bills got off to a rocky start, plagued by penalty flags. One of those penalties was confusing… The Chiefs took a penalty for holding and somehow ended up five yards further than where they started the game. The outfit would become something of a theme , as Buffalo held Kansas City to a field goal. In response, Buffalo came out swinging. On the back of Allen’s legs, not the arm, they powered the pitch. His 22, 11 and 9 yard dashes would give us a head start as he made a run designed for a touchdown.
twists of fate
Things took another turn in our favor as Siran Neal’s forced fumble on the return from the kickoff was recovered by Andre Smith Jr. Tragically, we would be forced 19 yards the wrong way and out of reach of the ground, where the driving had started. The punt that followed went for a touchdown. The leaders avoided disaster. KC followed that up with a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown that took eight minutes. The Buffalo Bills defense was in shock, under attack in every area it had struggled to start the year.
Ideally, the offense started spinning again. Five plays, two minutes, 75 yards. Josh Allen found Diggs for a first down, then Zack Moss for 24 more yards and Emmanuel Sanders for a 35-yard TD. Buffalo took a lead they wouldn’t lose. The defense woke up to force a quick Chiefs three-and-three, but Buffalo also seemed to stall before Allen found Diggs for a 61-yarder.
He dropped us on KC 11 in no time, but the ride ended there. Tyler Bass landed a perfect kick for three points.
Misfortune and fortune again
Then Bass made a mistake. At kickoff, he let it fly out of bounds, giving an aggressive opponent opportunities he didn’t need to take. From his own 40, Mahomes flashed with his legs for 23 yards, into Buffalo territory. KC was aware that they were going to face a hot opponent, and they needed to regain control of the match quickly. They didn’t want a field goal, they needed a touchdown. Instead, they turned it over on the downs as Poyer nearly made a deep pass attempt to a well-covered Travis Kelce.
As a result, Buffalo had the ball at 32, with two minutes left. The Bills have put in an effective two-minute drill up to this point in the season, and they’ve done it much faster this time around. Two plays: A 15-yard pass to Moss, then a 53-yard pass to Dawson Knox for all the balls.
Bad conditions, worse conditioning
As he headed towards the end zone, a cool wind was blowing. Bad weather was coming; the storm that had always been present on the horizon was approaching. Unfortunately, Buffalo had left too much time on the clock. The Chiefs have a great offense and they were able to use the last minute to secure a long field goal. It was 24-13 bills. The sides went to the tunnel and the rain started to fall. No one really knew when they would come out.
The lightning delay was upon us, and it was one of the worst weather delays in recent seasons. During a late Sunday night football game, millions of fans sat at home twiddling their thumbs. Many viewers went to bed and made peace just by finding out the score in the morning. Some bars have closed, leaving customers to search for a place to find an answer.
Inside the stadium, the hall was filled to the brim with supporters of both teams who simply couldn’t stay out in the bad weather all night. Many also returned home or returned to their hotels; it is better to risk missing out than perhaps to risk your health. Below the stadium, two locker rooms full of players tried to avoid stiffening. Two coaching teams were planning the game for the second half and doing everything they could to keep their guys ready. It wasn’t going to be enough. Such a large amount of waiting during the interruption was bound to have an effect.
A slow reboot
The Buffalo Bills started things over with a three-and-out. In exchange, Kansas City didn’t do much better and gave the ball back to us. Allen found Knox for another massive 41-yard gain before Haack unfortunately pushed him back once more to the KC eight-yard line. It had been a long break, but as the bodies of both teams began to relax again and the crowd rediscovered the fire the rain had so lovingly extinguished, a football match erupted.
Nowhere in Hyde
Unfortunately for the home team, time was running out. They were down 11 points against another AFC contender with possible playoff implications down the road. Despite the cold and the humidity, they still threw it. On third down, Mahomes hit Hill in the hands, but he couldn’t get him back up and the bobbled pass was caught by Micah Hyde, heading into the end zone for a pick-6. Within ten seconds, Buffalo had gone from worthy visitors to dominating conquerors.
KC comeback attempt
The Chiefs won the ball again, now down three scores. Buffalo could burn the clock. They had to go before it was too late. It was fourth-and-five on their own 32-yard line, and a pass from Mahomes went straight into the hands of his receiver, who quickly dropped it. That cursed, familiar yellow streak flashed across our screen, and the Chiefs’ drive was given new life thanks to an extremely poor passer penalty called Ed Oliver, who had been jammed straight into the quarterback’s legs on the play.
Once bailed out, KC began to move quickly. In no time, they were at the Buffalo Bills eight-yard line. On first and goal, Mahomes tried to sidearm a pass past DE rookie Greg Rousseau, who tipped him in the air and caught him for an interception. His efforts may have prevented a score, but on the other side of the ball they were in vain. Buffalo did nothing with their new possession, and a poor punt returned the ball to the Chiefs in midfield.
With 16 minutes to go, things were far from over. The Chiefs had shown themselves capable of scoring with impunity and they did, helped by a dodgy pass interference call against Tre’Davious White. Yet, in just two and a half minutes, Mahomes shoveled the ball to Travis Kelce for the score. There was still a lot of work to do. They didn’t have time to party.
The nail in the coffin
Some less confident fans may have thought things were going to fall apart, as Isaiah McKenzie missed the kickoff. McKenzie got it well, moving it to the 15-yard line before being knocked down. What happened next was the end of the game, but it wasn’t easy. The Buffalo Bills had a difficult third conversion called up for an offensive outfit, then, on the 3rd and 19th, Allen’s pass was intercepted.
The doomsayers deemed it over, but the rare yellow streak in our favor appeared. Roughing the setter, a 15-yard penalty. First automatic test. The coaches realized they had to trust their franchise quarterback to get the offense going, and Josh delivered. Highligths. On the next third down, he fled the pocket to the left, heading straight for L’Jarius Sneed. Sneed went low for the tackle and Josh went high for the first down.
With a wide variety of throws, routes, targets and a few runs of his own, he led the offense on a painstaking, consistent eight-minute touchdown to essentially secure the win.
Kansas City’s last practice was more out of pride than anything, but Mahomes mishandled a snap and, after a long chase for the ball, White jumped on it to bring it back on offense one last time. Allen and his friends brought the game to its knees, as the AFC boogeymen were stuffed and put on the shelf.
Round Two: Combat
A lot has changed since that early season game, but one thing is certain: these are two of the best teams in the NFL. Elite quarterbacks, a plethora of weapons, and groundbreaking defenders and mainstays. The game has it all, and it’s sure to surprise. Stay tuned for Sunday night.