Josh Allen and the Bills were firing on all cylinders in the closing minutes of Sunday night’s divisional-round showdown with the Chiefs, several times appearing to secure an upset of the reigning AFC champions in Kansas City. But Patrick Mahomes came to play as well, leading the Chiefs on a last-minute drive to set up a game-tying field goal, then finding Travis Kelce on the first possession of overtime to send K.C. back to the AFC title game with a 42-36 victory.
Here are some instant takeaways from Sunday night’s wild Chiefs win:
Why the Chiefs won
They had the ball last. Seriously. This game was a shootout from start to finish, and things only escalated in the late stages, with Patrick Mahomes saving some of his smoothest work for the biggest moments. The former MVP was the Chiefs’ offense for much of the night, leading K.C. on the ground (69 yards, one touchdown) and dominating through the air, throwing for 378 yards and most notably guiding game-tying and game-winning drives at the end of regulation and start of overtime.
His usual favorites, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, were unstoppable down the stretch, too, combining for almost 250 yards and two scores against a tired Bills defense. Without safety Tyrann Mathieu, who left early due to injury, the Chiefs’ defense wasn’t nearly as formidable, allowing Josh Allen and Co. to go blow for blow. But Melvin Ingram and their front at least got a few pressures on Allen to keep the Chiefs in the ballgame before things got especially chaotic in the final minute.
Why the Bills lost
The easy — and oversimplified explanation — is that the NFL’s overtime rules didn’t afford them a chance to match the Chiefs’ opening-drive score in overtime. But the reality is coaching was the biggest culprit on an otherwise mostly magical night for Buffalo. Allen was magnificent, matching Mahomes’ poise and production with both his arm and legs, and easily earned a shot at the AFC Championship on his own. Gabriel Davis was just as dominant, breaking out for a whopping 201 yards and four (!) TDs as Allen’s go-to target in crunch time. But the Bills oddly took a conservative approach at a few points during the game, notably on a fourth-and-short punt, and inexplicably kicked a touchback to give the Chiefs more time at the end of regulation.
It didn’t help that Buffalo’s defense, much like the Chiefs’ own “D,” looked completely gassed by the end of the night. It’s no surprise, honestly, considering how often and successfully both Allen and Mahomes were uncorking it. But the Bills had no answer for guys like Hill and Kelce in the waning minutes of the contest. Leslie Frazier may have helped by calling less of a prevent defense during the Chiefs’ final two series, but either way, the unit failed to step up with the game on the line.
The coin toss to start overtime? Just kidding. The real turning point was Mahomes’ first pass on the Chiefs’ final drive of regulation. Allen and the Bills had just marched right back down the field to reclaim the lead, but after Buffalo opted to kick off deep — and out of the end zone for a touchback — rather than squib it up the middle, No. 15 instantly found Tyreek Hill over the middle, with the wideout then sprinting 19 yards and allowing the Chiefs to quickly get in field-goal range. Once Harrison Butker connected on the game-tying 49-yard field goal as time expired, the game was all but left to the ensuing coin flip, which went the Chiefs’ way.
Play of the game
My goodness, it’s a crime to even choose among any of the half-dozen or so highlight-reel moments from the final few minutes of this all-time clash. But let’s go with Tyreek Hill’s dazzling TD to put the Chiefs up 33-26 with just over a minute to go:
The Chiefs are headed back to the AFC Championship for the fourth straight season. They’ll be back at Arrowhead Stadium for Sunday’s precursor to Super Bowl LVI, hosting the Bengals, who just upset the AFC’s No. 1-seeded Titans on Saturday. The Bills, meanwhile, will kick off their 2022 offseason after a second straight season-ending loss to Kansas City.