The Kansas City Chiefs lost a tough one on Sunday, falling to the Buffalo Bills, 24-20, in a game that came down to the wire.
Trailing by three points with five minutes and 31 seconds remaining in the contest, Bills' quarterback Josh Allen led a 12-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox.
The score marked the eighth lead-change or tie in what constituted a heavyweight fight between the two best teams in the AFC, and while Kansas City took over on offense with just over one minute remaining, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was intercepted on the second play of the series to essentially end the game.
Kansas City and Buffalo combined for 830 yards of total offense in the game, but a handful of missed opportunities ultimately came back to bite the Chiefs in a matchup where the margin for error was razor thin. Those miscues included an interception in the end zone on the Chiefs' first offensive possession, a 98-yard touchdown drive by Buffalo that nearly ended in a safety before it even got started, and a missed field goal early in the third quarter.
Still, despite those mistakes, the Chiefs were in a position to win the game on Sunday despite missing several starters on defense. Buffalo just managed to make a few more plays in the end.
"There are some good things that we can take out of this game – as tough as it is – with our young guys and how they stepped up and competed," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "We had too many mistakes when it was all said and done, and they had a few less [mistakes] than we did. It's good to learn from this, and it can benefit you down the road if you handle it right. This team will definitely do that."
Mahomes completed 25-of-40 passes for 338 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the game, finding wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 42-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The play was a thing of beauty, as Mahomes evaded the Bills' pass-rush by maneuvering in the pocket before slinging the ball across the field to Smith-Schuster, who broke three tackles on his way to the end zone. It was an exhilarating play that marked Smith-Schuster's first touchdown of the season and the first score of 20+ yards that Buffalo had yielded all year.
It was the beginning of a huge game for the veteran wide receiver, as Smith-Schuster finished the day with five catches for 113 yards.
"I think he's going to be a big part of this offense because of the way he's able to catch the ball and run tough through traffic," Mahomes said of Smith-Schuster's performance. "He had a great game today. I'm sure he'll keep getting more and more involved, and like I've said, it's going to be a different guy every game. That's how it's been this season."
Smith-Schuster's touchdown – which took place on Kansas City's second offensive series – put the Chiefs out in front and seemed to rectify Mahomes' red-zone interception a possession earlier, but Buffalo seemed ready to re-claim the lead on its ensuring drive by marching to the Chiefs' 3-yard line. Kansas City held on fourth down, however, preventing the Bills' high-powered offensive attack from finding the end zone.
In fact, despite racking up 180 yards of offense, the Bills managed just three points through their first three possessions of the game. It marked a tremendous start for the Chiefs' defense, which was missing numerous starters on Sunday, but Buffalo soon broke through in what turned out to be a major sequence in the game.
Following a pair of drives in which the two teams traded punts, Kansas City pinned the Bills at their own 4-yard line courtesy of a booming punt by Tommy Townsend and excellent coverage by linebacker Cole Christiansen. Two great defensive plays then left Buffalo facing a 3rd-and-13 at its own 1-yard line with just over one minute remaining the first half, but Allen managed to move the chains by finding wide receiver Gabe Davis for an 18-yard gain. The Bills then marched right down the field, culminating in a 34-yard strike from Allen to Davis that put Buffalo ahead by three points.
The score took place with only 16 seconds remaining in the first half, but as Buffalo found out during the Divisional Round of last year's postseason, that was still plenty of time for Kansas City to get into field goal range. Mahomes went on to find tailback Jerick McKinnon for 19 yards and tight end Travis Kelce for a nine-yard gain before kicker Harrison Butker nailed a 62-yard field goal that tied the game at 10 points apiece.
The kick, which set a new franchise record, was a fitting way for Butker to make his return to action after missing the last several weeks with an ankle injury.
"He's an amazing kicker. It was good to have him back out there," Reid said. "We appreciated what the other guys did for us, but Harrison is one of the best in the National Football League. It was good to have him back."
The Chiefs were then in a position to take the lead after halftime, but a 51-yard kick by Butker sailed wide left and the Bills took over with good field position. Allen quickly took advantage, too, finding wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 17-yard touchdown that pushed the Bills in front.
Kansas City immediately responded with an answer of its own though, compiling an 83-yard scoring drive that ended with a three-yard strike from Mahomes to wide receiver Mecole Hardman.
The touchdown tied the game at 17 points, and following a failed fourth-down attempt by Buffalo a possession later, Kansas City took the lead with a 44-yard field goal by Butker.
The two teams then traded punts, setting up Buffalo's final drive with just under six minutes remaining. The Bills converted both a fourth down and a third down on the series before Allen found Knox in the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning score, handing Kansas City its second loss of the season.
It was one of those games that lived up the hype, and though it didn't go the Chiefs' way in the end, Kansas City fought throughout in what has become one of the best rivalries in the NFL.
"You want to win just because you're a competitor and you know that you're playing the best of the best – and you feel like you're the best of the best – so you want to win those games," Mahomes said. "At the end of the day [though], it's just [one] game. You kind of have to reiterate to guys in the locker room that it's one game in the regular season that you wanted to win, and you felt like you could have won, but you didn't, so how are you going to respond? [That's important], because we play a great team next week."
In some good news, Reid had no injuries to report following the game.
Kansas City will now prepare for a rematch of Super Bowl LIV as the Chiefs look ahead to a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Sunday.