KANSAS CITY, Missouri The Buffalo Bills required this victory. Not with a rout highlighted by splash plays from the highlight reel. Not with reserves playing pointless minutes with the fourth quarter clock winding down. It had to be this way with Von Miller wrecking havoc as Patrick Mahomes tried to work his all-too-familiar brand of magic, Josh Allen trying to make crucial plays, and his receivers making huge catches.
The Bills defeated the Chiefs 24-20 on Sunday afternoon in Kansas City to secure the victory they were looking for. That victory’s ultimate source says much more about them than the outcome itself. Buffalo’s first four victories this season have been by an average margin of 30 points for three of them.
The Bills are the best team in the NFL. If they want to still be able to make that claim at the end of the season, they need to win games like this against teams like this.
“I’m proud of our team and how we battled tonight,” Allen said. “We obviously didn’t start off how we wanted to, but guys just kept their heads down, didn’t panic or blink, trusted the game plan, trusted situational football and got a W. That was our only goal coming in here. If it’s by one or 100, it’s another win and that’s what we’re trying to do each and every week.”
Allen made reference to a fumble that occurred on an option throw during Buffalo’s opening drive of the contest. At the 11-yard line, Chiefs linebacker Darius Harris recovered the lost possession, ending the Bills’ first chance to make a strong statement in a hostile environment. That play could have been a warning sign for the Bills of what was to follow. Instead, it gave rise to even greater hope for this team’s potential as it pursues a Super Bowl title.
Of course, when the Bills have dominated their opponents, they have been spectacular. However, they haven’t had the best recent record in close games. Prior to their Week 4 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo had dropped seven consecutive one-score games dating back to the beginning of last season (including the playoffs). The Bills’ most notable loss during that run of failure was their agonizing 42-36 overtime loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City during the Divisional Round of the playoffs the previous season.
So yes — the Bills did need this win, as it moved them to 5-1, kept them in sole possession of first place in the AFC East and gave them a head-to-head advantage when it comes to deciding whether the AFC Championship Game might be played in their stadium come late January. But this victory should say so much more about Buffalo because of the optics. That playoff loss in Kansas City was especially traumatizing because the Bills appeared to have that game in hand until the Chiefs miraculously tied the contest on a field goal after taking possession of the football with just 13 seconds remaining in regulation. This win didn’t erase that memory, but it went a long way toward revealing that Buffalo is better equipped to handle late-game situations against this opponent.
The most fulfilling aspect of Sunday’s contest had to be Buffalo seeing its prized offseason acquisition, Miller, pressuring Mahomes to the point that the quarterback threw the game-clinching interception to Bills cornerback Taron Johnson with less than a minute remaining.
“I know what happened today — we came out on top,” said Miller, who finished with two sacks. “Everything else is in the past. I think ignorance is bliss and I didn’t feel that (desire for redemption after the playoff loss). I wasn’t here with these guys to go through that game. But I was here today, and I witnessed these guys work all week and all offseason long to have success out here.”
The Bills signed Miller because they believed he could be the last piece in their quest for a championship. The Chiefs had defeated Buffalo in the AFC Championship Game during the 2020 season, thus Mahomes had bamboozled them in back-to-back postseasons. Buffalo needed to find a strategy to pressure Mahomes in crucial situations. The Bills’ quarterback has continued to grow as a player, as their offense demonstrated on Sunday. Although Allen offered many thrilling moments, it was his performance in crucial moments that distinguished out in this competition.
Buffalo faced a 7-3 deficit late in the first half when Allen led his team on a 7-play, 96-yard drive in just 1:13 of game time. His 34-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Davis gave Buffalo a lead that was only trumped by Mahomes putting Kansas City in position for Harrison Butker to kick a team-record 62-yard field goal as the half ended. Then the Bills trailed 20-17 when Allen got the ball with 5:31 left in regulation. This time he engineered a 12-play, 76-yard drive that ended with his 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox with 1:04 remaining.
Allen wasn’t ready to make those plays consistently a couple years ago. He made them last season when it counted, but Buffalo couldn’t stifle Mahomes when it mattered most. The best thing about the way the Bills handled Sunday’s outcome was that they kept it in perspective. They know there’s a very good chance they will need those same types of plays in the postseason, perhaps against the Chiefs for yet another time.
Allen said that he was unaware of Buffalo’s upcoming opponent because the Bills have a bye week before visiting Green Bay on October 30. He did admit that he was looking forward to some relaxation and that playing golf or going fishing was probably on the schedule. A little rest and relaxation won’t hurt because the Bills are off to the quick start any team wants. They are aware that their current success will matter more in the postseason the more success they enjoy now.
Since Buffalo triumphed in Kansas City in October of last year, Allen didn’t need to mention that this victory was sweeter than others. A 38-20 win in that contest was a rout similar to the Bills’ thrashing of the Rams in the season opener this year and their 35-point triumph against the Steelers last week. The viewers of those victories left gushing about what the Bills could be at their peak. After Buffalo’s season ended in Kansas City in January of last year, there wasn’t the same level of conversation.
Since Miller joined the team, the Bills had a distinct personality. They’ve been clear about saying they’re all-in to win a title, and they’ve taken some significant actions to support that. But this club should know better than any other that winning titles is not something that happens overnight. You have to work hard for them, and it helps to have a lot of experience in that field.