The American Underdog Buffalo Bills were cheered on in Western New York and nationally with a likable cast of players and coaches. Today, a stinging loss leaves a lot of questions.
A column by JOHN ANDERSON
The Buffalo Bills’ 42-36 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night not only stung Bills fans, but the national media as well.
As a franchise with zero Super Bowl losses and a team with likable players and coaches, there was no question on social media who the nation was pulling for.
The Chiefs didn’t make the last two Super Bowls on luck. They even won in 2020. However, there have been a few rallying cries not just in Western New York, but nationally concerning the last few seconds of the game and overtime.
First, the “Unlucky 13.” I haven’t heard anyone else call the game this, but the Bills led, 36-33 with 13 seconds left and had to kick off to the Chiefs to win. Here’s the part that stinks. In those last 13 seconds, the Chiefs drove down the field and kicked a field goal to tie the game. The Chiefs won a coin flip and scored a touchdown in overtime for the win.
The Bills offense, which was incredible, never had a chance to put their hands on the football and win.
First, my take on the last 13 seconds.
Bills kicker Tyler Bass kicked the ball in the end zone. The ball was placed on the 25 and no time came off the clock. A couple first downs later thanks to Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, and the game was tied.
The criticism? Why didn’t the Bills kick the ball on the ground and let the Chiefs run around and take time off the clock? There are two reasons. The first, they would have downed the ball on the 35 or 40 and MAYBE a second clicks off. Mahomes, with three time outs, might have scored a touchdown.
The second, the Bills tried that against the Tennessee Titans and were burned for a touchdown on an illegal forward lateral despite instant replay. The Chiefs have superior athletes who could have returned it for a touchdown as well.
Putting the Chiefs with the ball on the 25 against the No. 1 defense in the NFL was the right thing to do.
The second issue I am seeing questioned, the overtime rules.
The old rule was simple. First team to score, wins. That was not fair. Two plays and a field goal, game over. So the NFL competition committee came up with a new rule. If you win the coin flip and kick a field goal, the other team gets a chance to tie the game as well and you keep playing. However, whoever scores the first touchdown in overtime wins the game. That seems fair. A touchdown is not easy.
The NFL added a 17th game. There are players who competed in pre-season games, all 17 games and now the playoffs. The NFL Players Association was not in favor of a 17th game. Look at the toll a game, a season, takes on a player.
On the defensive line for the Bills, Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips are 6-1, 287 and 6-3, 307 respectively. They were chasing Mahomes around the field like a game of tag. And, they made incredible, athletic plays. But you could also see how tired they were. I couldn’t believe a couple times Oliver stayed on the field, but he was going to do whatever it took to win.
If the overtime rules were different and the Bills scored a touchdown to tie in overtime, we are now in the fourth hour of this game. What did these guys have left? How many more blows did they have to take?
A few final thoughts.
The Bills were without Tre’Davious White who was injured earlier in the year. He might be the best cornerback in football. If he plays, the Bills win. It’s a sentiment not too many will argue. However, the Chiefs lost safety Tyrann Mathieu in the first quarter of the game to a concussion. Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis set a NFL playoffs record by catching four touchdown passes.
If Mathieu is in the game, does that happen?
Also, a lot is being made of the lack of receptions by Bills WR Stefon Diggs. The safety help and linebacker help on Diggs allowed Allen to pick apart the Kansas City defense and hit Davis with four touchdowns and key first down passes to Cole Beasley. This was a game the Bills could have won. And Diggs would not have cared and probably caught 12 passes the next week in the AFC title game. But we will never know.
This game is being called the greatest game in NFL history. It’s easy to say that when you are caught up in an emotional roller coaster. But this game appeared over four different times. Patrick Mahomes sprinted the length of the field to congratulate Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Against New England last week, NFL experts said it was the best game a quarterback ever played.
They said it again last night. Over two weeks, Allen threw for 637 yards and nine touchdowns with zero interceptions. He ran 11 times for 68 yards on Sunday, an average of 6.2 yards a carry. The week before he averaged 11 yards a carry, running for 66 yards.
Allen physically hurt defenders running the ball.
This loss stings. In the locker room and fans across New York. There won’t be a run on food and drinks and merchandise at stores all week. Hopefully there will be another Eric Jones snow sculpture. But the fun videos, the celebrating and the smiles are over until another season.
But for the Bills fans, you have arguably the best quarterback in the league and more trips to the playoffs in the future.
And for decades, people will remember the greatest football game they ever watched.
(John Anderson has covered the Bills and the NFL since Wide Right. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)