An upside down Bowe, two missed field goals in OT, and a near tie: Who thought Bills-Chiefs would have been the AFC Game of the Week?
In case you weren’t aware, Sunday was Halloween and in Kansas City, the Buffalo Bills disguised themselves as a team capable of claiming a victory. But for the second time in consecutive weeks, despite doing enough good things to win the Bills also made just enough mistakes to lose.
We know by know how much the players are trying, how much they’re fighting out there. Head coach Chan Gailey will easily tell you this team, unlike the so-called “America’s Team” in Dallas right now, has not quit on this season. And with the Bills losing their second straight game in overtime, on the road, almost makes it unfair that the Bills remain winless while the Dallas Cowboys don’t have a zero in their win column.
But we’ve all seen this ending. It’s not a Disney production. With these Bills, when it comes down to close games decided by a few points and a few plays, the ending has you reaching for the box of Kleenex. Sunday’s 13-10 overtime loss to the Chiefs drops the Bills to 0-7 for the first time since 1984, the year in which yours truly behind the keyboard was born. It’s also the first time in franchise history that Buffalo has lost back-to-back games in overtime.
It seems as though there have been a lot of firsts lately in the past weeks. First time the Bills have gone this deep into a season winless in 26 years. The first time they’ve allowed five straight games of allowing 34-plus points. Also the first time a Bills quarterback threw for over 300 yards since 2006. But the fact remains that the real first Buffalo yearns for is the first win of the 2010 season.
This one should have been different. But I’m sure you know by now that unless two things drastically change between now and the end of the season, things won’t be different. Those two things are the run defense and the ability to create/force turnovers. The Bills came away empty on both counts on Sunday.
Buffalo couldn’t stop, slow or even contain Kansas City’s running game. The Chiefs entered Sunday with the league’s top rated rushing attack averaging 176.5 yards per game. They lived up to the hype, providing to be as good as advertised, gashing the Bills for 274 total yards rushing. Jamaal Charles ran for 177 yards on 22 carries, and finished with 238 total yards while averaging 8.0 yards per carry. Thomas Jones rushed for 77 yards on 20 carries. Once again the defense did not force a turnover. In seven games, they have just one interception and now halfway through the season, the secondary still doesn’t have a pick.
You can look to four crucial factors in the game that were a determining factor:
1. With the Bills driving in the waning moments of the game, and just shy of field goal range in KC territory, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a horrible interception at the Chiefs 27-yard line with just :25 seconds to go in the game, ending any chances that the Bills could’ve possibly set up at least a game-winning field goal attempt.
2. Fitzpatrick overthrew a wide open C.J. Spiller in the endzone halfway through the overtime session. The Bills got the perfect matchup they wanted, the faster Spiller matched up on a linebacker and with the Chiefs sending the blitz. The ball sailed over and past Spiller.
3. Almost always reliable Rian Lindell missing a 53-yard field goal attempt with 7:11 remaining in overtime. Now I know that a 53-yard attempt is in no way a gimmie, but Lindell had made the try moments before, but the Chiefs called timeout before the Bills snapped the ball. Lindell missed the second attempt.
4. Buffalo surrendered 274 total yards rushing to the statistically best run team in the NFL. You can’t give up that staggering total and expect to win.
In the end, it’s faily easy to say that the better team won. The Chiefs easily outrushed the Bills, and outgained Buffalo 414-328. Unlike last week’s track meet in Baltimore, this one was more of a tooth-and-nail struggle with the Chiefs producing the only points in the first half, a one-yard touchdown pass from Matt Cassell to receiver Dwayne Bowe with 1:28 left before halftime. Buffalo managed only 58 yards in the first half.
But giving the devil their due, the Bills made adjustments in the second half when so many previous occasions those adjustments never came to fruition. Coming out in the second half, Buffalo took the kickoff and went on a 15-play drive that resulted in a Rian Lindell 43-yard field goal at 6:03 of the third quarter pulling the Bills to within four, 7-3.
Kansas City put the Bills behind the eight ball in the fourth quarter thanks to a Ryan Succop 28-yard field goal with 9:36 left in the game. The Chiefs had some breathing room and the Bills needed to respond with a score, particularly a touchdown. For nearly 13 minutes of the final stanza, it looked as if the Chiefs were going to outlast the Bills, however, Fitzpatrick and the offense had other ideas.
Fitzpatrick marched the Bills on a 15-play, 83-yard drive that resulted in a game-tying 4-yard pass to Steve Johnson on a fourth-and-two with 2:18 remaining in the game. Fitzpatrick connected on 8 of 10 passes on the drive. The Bills, however, weren’t done.
Luckily, thanks to some curious and questionable play calling by the Chiefs and a defensive stand by the defense, the Bills got the ball back with :49 seconds left and a chance to pull off the upset. Fitzpatrick got the Bills into Chiefs territory, down to their 41-yard line when his errant pass intended for Lee Evans sailed over Evans making it an easy interception for Chiefs rookie safety Eric Berry, forcing overtime for the second straight week.
Halfway into overtime, the Bills took the football from their own 10-yard line all the way to the Chiefs’ 37. Buffalo had the best of both worlds, with the Chiefs defense blitzing and with Spiller matched up on a linebacker. Fitzpatrick, however, overthrew a wide open Spiller that would have resulted in an easy game-winning score. Instead, two plays later the Bills would get no closer than the Chiefs’ 34 setting up a potential 53-yard game-winning field goal from Lindell.
Lindell successfully blasted the attempt through the uprights, however the Chiefs called a timeout just seconds before the Bills were able to get the snap off. On the second try, Lindell would miss the 53-yard attempt as the kick hit the right upright. But, one good miss in overtime deserves another as the Chiefs began to operate from their own 34. Six plays later, they found themselves in Bills territory at the Buffalo 21 setting up a 39-yard try for Ryan Succop. Succop wasn’t able to be the hero as his kick sailed wide left and gave the Bills another chance.
With 3:33 left in overtime, the Bills drive lasted seven plays. They were able to pick up a first down, but three straight Fitzpatrick incompletions and the drive and the Bills ran out of gas. The Chiefs got the ball back with 73 seconds away from a tie game. Cassell hit pass plays of 16, 11 and 18 on the drive (16 -Charles, 11 and 18 yard pass plays to tight end Tony Moeaki). Charles’ final rushing attempt of the day, an eight-yard run, put the Chiefs in great position at the Buffalo 16. On fourth and two, Succop atoned for his earlier miss and became the hero, booting the game-winner from 35 yards out as time expired.
Maybe the Bills deserve better than the fate they’ve been dealt the past two weeks. They’ve lost two straight overtime games. They’ve lost two straight road games by a combined six points. They’ve played good enough to win for two straight weeks. But in the NFL, good enough is never good enough. Bad teams find ways to lose and good teams find ways to snatch up victories.