ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The game lived up to its billing.
In the seventh meeting between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs this decade, it was the visiting Chiefs who prevailed on Sunday, winning a 27-24 thriller in the AFC divisional round from frigid western New York. Kansas City, playing its first road playoff game of the Patrick Mahomes era, sealed it after Buffalo kicker Tyler Bass missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide right that would have tied the score with under two minutes to play.
Kansas City returns to its familiar place in the AFC Championship Game, where Andy Reid’s squad will meet the Ravens at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium next Sunday.
Here are the biggest takeaways from both teams in the contest.
Kansas City Chiefs
This season’s AFC Championship Game won’t be another edition of the Arrowhead Invitational, but it will include the Chiefs.
The Chiefs advanced to a sixth straight conference title game after another in their collection of epic playoff victories. The divisional round lead changed hands five times before Kansas City held off the Bills on their final drive.
The Chiefs will play the Ravens next Sunday in the conference title game. The game will be held in Baltimore after the previous five AFC Championship Games were staged at Arrowhead Stadium.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: In an indication of how the Chiefs were being handled by the Bills when Buffalo ran the ball, the Bills through three quarters averaged 3.9 yards before contact per rush. The Bills were hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on just three of 31 rushing attempts to that point. The Chiefs allowed 182 rushing yards, one reason they were at big deficits in time of possession and number of plays run.
Promising trend: The Chiefs were finally able to finish some drives. Their first two scores on Sunday came on field goals. To that point, 13 of their previous 16 scoring drives had resulted in field goals; only three ended in touchdowns. But they were able to finish a drive late in the first half and another early in the third quarter with touchdowns, both on passes from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs then punched in another drive early in the fourth period on Isiah Pacheco’s four-yard scoring run.
QB breakdown: Mahomes had another monumental game against the Bills in the playoffs. Buffalo opted to play coverage, as opposed to putting pressure on Mahomes, and he took advantage of that strategy. Mahomes was able to get some big plays down the field, and he finished 17-of-23 passing for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns. — Adam Teicher
The ball was in Josh Allen’s hands to put together a late touchdown drive to give the Bills the lead and take time off the clock.
Instead, they got zero points out of a 16-play, 54-yard drive when Tyler Bass’ 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right following two straight Allen incompletions, handing the ball back to Kansas City with 1:43 left on the clock that it would wind down for a three-point victory. When Buffalo’s offense needed a drive more than ever, they were unable to get it. After holding a 17-13 lead, the Bills only scored once in the second half, and Buffalo’s defense struggled to stop the Chiefs.
The Bills couldn’t get beyond the hurdle that has been Kansas City in the playoffs, falling to 0-3 in the postseason with Mahomes facing Allen at quarterback. The loss ends a six-game winning streak and sends the Bills into the offseason with big questions to answer after losing in the divisional round for a third straight campaign.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The defensive response coming out of halftime. Even when considering the number of injuries this unit has, the adjustments that were made didn’t work. Kansas City’s offense seemingly came out to start the third quarter with no issues at all moving the ball downfield, putting together consecutive 75-yard touchdown drives of six and eight plays to take over the lead and put the game on the shoulders of Allen and the Bills’ offense.
Promising trend: The success of Buffalo’s offensive line and ball carriers. The Bills’ running game got going early and often, with its rushers not being hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on their first 15 attempts. The success of the running game allowed Buffalo to extend long drives — including five of 11 plays or more — and control the time of possession throughout the game. Allen and running backs James Cook and Ty Johnson all shined as rushers, with the quarterback running for two scores, tying the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts (2022) for the most rushing touchdowns in a season (regular season and playoffs) with 18.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: Wide receiver Khalil Shakir made an impressive catch on his 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter, part of a strong game for the second-year player. Just how unlikely was the score? Per Next Gen Stats, Shakir had 0.3 yards of distance from the sideline with L’Jarius Sneed as the nearest defender in coverage. The reception was Sneed’s first touchdown allowed in coverage as the nearest defender since Week 15 of the 2022 season. The completion probability was 26%. — Alaina Getzenberg