Sáb. Mar 2nd, 2024

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The kick initially looked like it was headed through the uprights. Then, it sharply changed direction with the 11-13 mph winds in Orchard Park helping the ball go up and to the right, away from the upright.

The missed 44-yard field goal by Buffalo Bills kicker Tyler Bass left 1:43 on the clock for the Kansas City Chiefs, the ball at the Chiefs’ 34-yard line and a three-point lead.

«Ultimately, it’s completely on me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting through to my target,» Bass said. «I’ve got to do a better job of playing it a little bit more left when you have a left to right [wind]. I’ve been here long enough to know that you have to do that. You know, I was trusting my line that I had in warmups. Hit a good ball, but it didn’t work out. I feel terrible, you know? I love this team and it hurts. This one hurts bad. Yeah, I’ve got to do a better job. Totally on me.»

Bass finished the regular and postseason with his lowest field goal percentage in his four-year career (76.5%). Coach Sean McDermott said after the game that they have «full confidence» in Bass. The coach also pointed to defense and special teams not playing the «way we needed to.»

The field goal attempt will be just another what-if moment for the Bills in a game full of chances and a variety of additional game-changing moments that ended with more of the same. For a third-straight season, the Bills’ year ended in the divisional round of the playoffs with the 27-24 loss at home to the Chiefs and extended the team’s record vs. Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback in the postseason to 0-3. Another postseason, another loss for Buffalo to Kansas City.

«I wish [Bass] wouldn’t have been put in that situation,» quarterback Josh Allen said. «You win as a team, you lose as a team. One play doesn’t define a game. It doesn’t define a season. I know people are going to be out there saying that. We got to be there for him because again, we execute a couple of plays prior, probably singing a different tune right now.»

Bass’ kick was joined by two incompletions from the Kansas City 26-yard line leading up to the kick on a 16-play, 54-yard drive that ended in no points. That includes a second-and-9 play that saw wide receiver Stefon Diggs open as he ran across the middle of the field, but Allen targeted Khalil Shakir deep as he was pressured by defensive tackle Chris Jones. Add to that a drop by Diggs on a long pass downfield on the first play of the final drive.

The what-ifs for the Bills also extend to an offensive approach that saw them not having an offensive play longer than 18 yards, only the second time in Allen’s 103 career starts, including playoffs, that the Bills had zero plays gain 20-plus yards in a game (Week 5, 2018). Allen averaged 0.7 air yards on 26 completions with 24 coming within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Since 2006, only two quarterbacks have completed 20-plus passes in a game and averaged fewer air yards on their completions.

Allen finished the game completing 26 of 39 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for 72 yards on 12 carries and two rushing scores. There were no turnovers or sacks. The Bills owned the time of possession (37:03), but as an offense only produced seven second half points.

«Losing sucks,» Allen said. «Losing to them, losing to anybody at home sucks.»

Defensively, the Bills gave up two touchdowns on the Chiefs’ first drives of the second half, and the big plays made their mark. The Chiefs had a season-high eight plays that gained 20-plus yards. Injuries played a role on defense, but the unit was unable to force a turnover — something that it has taken pride in doing with takeaways a signature of a six-game winning streak that the Bills came into the game with (recorded at least one in five of the games). The defense also allowed tight end Travis Kelce to get loose, catching five receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns. The defense helping force a fumble out of bounds by Mecole Hardman after a failed fake punt by the Bills on a Damar Hamlin carry proved to not be enough to be a game-saver.

«Just comes down to making the plays that come your way, making the tackles and doing your job,» defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said. «Some of those plays, we weren’t doing that and they exposed us.»

An offseason with big decisions and question marks awaits the Bills after another AFC East title — one that had a 4% chance of happening, per ESPN Analytics, when the Bills were 6-6 after Week 13. Another chance for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title will wait another year.

«I’m extremely disappointed. I mean, you put so much time into this,» McDermott said. «We put so much time into a season, let alone this game, and the preparation for it, and to come out and to not perform the way I’d hoped we would’ve, it’s extremely disappointing and frustrating and it’s a type of situation in our business where you got to spend the whole offseason thinking about it, but it drives you harder, if that’s even possible to drive someone harder, drives you harder to come back next season and continue to work at it.»

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