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Bills get a season-saving win

November 26, 2017
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Let me get the most important part out of the way first - my thanks to the Buffalo Bills for winning. We all needed that. Badly. After all, it had been four weeks since they thumped the Oakland Raiders for their last victory. And, there was no soul crushing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, although we did have to sweat this one out.

What a performance by the beleaguered Bills defense. During the three-game losing streak, the Bills defense had been absolutely torched while giving up 14 touchdowns. They gave up just one touchdown and one field goal to the Chiefs in 12 drives. Kansas City punted eight times, turned the ball over on downs once, and Tre'Davious White had the Bills' first interception in four games to seal the win.

Even though the Chiefs offense has been in a deep freeze, I was expecting them to come alive against the Bills defense. I thought Kareem Hunt could run for 200 yards. But give credit to Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier for putting together a good game plan and mixing up their looks. Hunt did absolutely nothing with just 17-yards on eleven carries. The Bills did to the Chiefs what teams have done to stop Buffalo’s running game this season, load up the box. The Bills were bringing in a cornerback at times, a safety at times and blitzing their linebackers. Hunt was seeing eight men in the box and he was a non-factor.

The Bills' pass defense showed up too. They were able to generate pressure on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and that pressure forced some bad throws. The Bills had two sacks, making this their first multi-sack performance since Week 3 against the Denver Broncos. Kansas City’s explosive wide receiver Tyreek Hill had seven catches, but for only 41 yards. His longest catch went for eleven yards. The Bills' tackling was at its best level in a month as they limited the run-after-catch yards. 

The Chiefs' leading receiver, tight end Travis Kelce, wasn’t much of a factor either. Without seeing the All-22, I don’t know if the Bills should get the lions share of credit for taking him out of the game, or if there was a reluctance on the part of Smith to throw him the ball. Kelce had just one target in the entire first half. The Chiefs must have realized that because Kelce had a pair of catches on their lone touchdown drive of the game at the start of the third quarter, but that was the high point of his day.

The stellar showing of the Bills defense allowed them to hang on for this crucial victory while the offense went into a deep freeze in the second half. The Bills tried to put the game away by running the ball and they couldn’t do it. After a run-pass balance of 22-24 in the first half, the Bills ran 15 times in the second half and passed only five. But LeSean McCoy was stuffed, and the offense managed to produce one field goal after the break.  

If the Bills did end up blowing this game, we’d be looking back at ineffectiveness in short yardage in the second half. On their second drive of the half, the Bills couldn’t convert a 2nd and 1 or a 3rd and 1. On the next possession, they came up with nothing on a 2nd and 3 and then the 3rd and 3. The next possession, again, produced a goose egg on 3rd and short. Needing two-yards for a first down, a pitch to McCoy resulted in a five-yard loss. Of course, on the play right before that, a better throw from Tyrod Taylor to Nick O’Leary would have produced a first down and a play that, at the very least, would have put the Bills in field goal range. A field goal would have given them a 19-10 lead and probably have kept us from the edge of the seat final minutes.

The Bills were also their own worst enemy on what amounted to their final offensive possession. Up six with the ball at their own 46 and 2:49 left, the Bills called three run plays that looked like they were very happy to punt the ball away and let the defense close the sale. I was livid. I haven’t been that angry all season. Kansas City had all of their timeouts, so the Bills ended up taking eight-seconds off the clock on the three runs that ended up losing two-yards.  

I’m guessing McDermott felt his defense was winning the battle against a struggling Kansas City offense, and they wouldn’t drive the field for a game-tying touchdown. But here’s a novel concept... how about trying to put the game away with the offense? How about go for a first down or two and not let the Chiefs get the ball back? I’m typing angry as I think about that sequence.

I was even angrier when Kansas City got a huge break on their final drive thanks to an unbelievably bad unnecessary roughness penalty on E.J. Gaines. Bad memories of an awful pass interference call on Nickell Robey-Coleman in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars were in my head. 

But it all worked out in the end, and the Bills gave me a reason to care about the out-of-town scoreboard and once again check out remaining schedules for other teams. Nothing like a win to make you feel better. Don’t ruin the mood by asking about the next game on the schedule.