The Kansas City Chiefs came up just short in a battle between the two best teams in the AFC on Sunday, falling to the Buffalo Bills, 24-20, at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Here are some quick notes from the game.
1. There were several positives to take away from the game despite the loss, including the breakout performance by wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Smith-Schuster turned in his best game as a Chief on Sunday, catching five passes for a team-most 113 yards and a touchdown. Two of those grabs, in particular, amounted to big plays for the Chiefs' offense. First, on a long third down attempt, Smith-Schuster hauled in a catch just past the chains before breaking three tackles and escaping for a 42-yard touchdown. It was Smith-Schuster's first touchdown as a member of the Chiefs, and at the time, it gave Kansas City the lead.
Then, midway through the third quarter, Mahomes found Smith-Schuster over the middle for a medium-sized gain before the veteran receiver broke free for 41 yards. The play set up a touchdown reception by fellow receiver Mecole Hardman five snaps later.
It was an outstanding example of what Smith-Schuster can bring to Kansas City's offense, and while it took place in a losing effort on Sunday, it's hopefully a sign of things to come.
2. The Chiefs' defense also turned in an impressive showing against the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL.
Kansas City was missing numerous contributors on defense against the Bills, including linebacker Willie Gay, cornerback Trent McDuffie, safety Bryan Cook and cornerback Rashad Fenton. Still, despite being undermanned, the Chiefs managed to hold Buffalo – the No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL – to only 24 points.
The Bills were 2-of-4 in the red zone, and that doesn't include a possession that ended with a field goal at the Chiefs' 21-yard line. Buffalo was also held short on fourth down twice.
Buffalo deserves credit for its 12-play, 76-yard drive that ended with the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of the game, but overall, the Chiefs' defense put together a strong performance against a tough opponent while playing several young players in major moments.
Kansas City isn't in the business of moral victories, but the real-world experience obtained by players such as cornerback Joshua Williams on Sunday will hopefully prove beneficial in the long run.
3. Kicker Harrison Butker set a franchise record with a 62-yard field goal.
Butker, appearing in his first game since injuring his left ankle in Week 1, nailed a 62-yard field goal at the end of the first half on Sunday to set a new franchise record for distance. Butker topped the previous record that, ironically enough, was set last week when Matthew Wright successfully converted a 59-yard kick.
It was the longest successful field goal in any game this season, and the second-longest of any kick since the beginning of last season.
4. Despite those positives, missed opportunities ultimately came back to bite the Chiefs.
The Chiefs did a lot of good things on Sunday, but when playing a team like Buffalo, the margin for error is often razor thin. That unfortunately proved to be the case this time around, as a handful of miscues ended up costing the Chiefs in the end.
Those mistakes included an interception in the end zone on the Chiefs' opening possession, a 98-yard touchdown drive by the Bills at the end of the first half and a missed field goal in the third quarter. Still, despite those errors, Kansas City was still in position to win the game with the lead and possession of the football with just over seven minutes left. The Chiefs couldn't finish it though, and Buffalo took advantage.
5. In a game between two evenly matched squads, the Bills made a few more plays in the end.
Both teams kept it close through four quarters, but in the very end, Buffalo simply made a few more plays. The Bills converted both a fourth down and a third down on their final scoring drive, covering 76 yards in 12 plays. It was a tough ending for the Chiefs' defense, which played really well on Sunday, but Kansas City will hopefully use the experience to be even better down the road.
"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."
The Chiefs will now turn the page in preparation for a rematch of Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers on deck.