Nobody could’ve forseen this, but what a beautiful site it was inside Arrowhead Stadium. It was essentially a tale of two stories: anything that the Buffalo Bills touched turned to gold and in sharp contrast, anything that the Kansas City Chiefs got their hands on turned to trash.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 208 yards and set a career-high with four touchdowns. Fred Jackson, and not Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, rushed for 112 yards on 20 carries and the Bills forced three turnovers to blowout the Chiefs 41-7 in the 2011 season opener giving Kansas City their worst home opening day loss in franchise history. It was the Chiefs’ worst home loss since losing 45-0 to the Pittsburgh Steelers 35 years ago.
Tight end Scott Chandler, playing for his third NFL team since 2007, caught his first two career touchdown passes and finished the afternoon with five catches for 63 yards. Wide receivers Steve Johnson and David Nelson each had four receptions for 66 yards. Johnson and wide out Donald Jones each had a touchdown reception.
It became a special, different day immediately. On the game’s opening kickoff, it was a pair of Buffalo rookie linebackers making an impact. Chris White forced Dexter McCluster to fumble and the football was recovered by Kelvin Sheppard. Five plays later, on a third-and-goal from the Chiefs’ 4 yard line, Fitpatrick threw his first touchdown of the day and the first of two to Chandler for a four-yard score giving the Bills an early 7-0 lead. After the Chiefs second straight three and out, Fitzpatrick and the Bills went back to work. Fitzpatrick kept the drive alive converting a third-and-six hooking up with David Nelson for nine yards. Two plays later, the duo hooked up again as Nelson hauled in a 35-yard reception. The very next play, Johnson went up and reeled in a 27-yard pass to give the Bills the lead 14-0 after the first quarter.
On their ensuing possession it appeared as though the early afternoon haze was lifting for the Chiefs. Charles broke off a 22-yard run. Cassel hit Dwayne Bowe and Jake O’Connell for 15-yard pass plays. With the Chiefs in business at the Buffalo 21, that’s where the good vibes ended. Charles had a short two yard gain, a Leonard Pope touchdown that was waived off after a lengthy review, followed by an incompletion and a sack from Spencer Johnson on third down that pushed the Chiefs back to the Buffalo 31. Ryan Succop’s 49-yard field goal attempt was no good and the Chiefs came away with nothing.
Buffalo took over and drove 50 yards in nine plays finished off with a 28-yard field goal by Rian Lindell putting the Bills up 17-0. On Kansas City’s first play from scrimmage following Lindell’s field goal, Charles fumbled at the Chiefs’ 18. Leodis McKelvin recovered the fumble for Buffalo, and the Bills were set to ice the game away at the Kansas City 21. But the Bills couldn’t move in for the kill and managed just one yard on four plays and relied on Lindell again, this time booting a 38-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 20-7.
Starting from their own 19, Kansas City marched on an 11-play 80-yard drive that ate up 3:52. Cassel found Charles for a six-yard touchdown pass and the Chiefs finally hit paydirt with 1:56 left before the half cutting the Bills’ lead to 20-7.
Coming out of the locker room, the Chiefs quickly found themselves in a landslide. After both teams traded punts on their first possessions of the third quarter, Fitzpatrick engineered another scoring drive for the Bills. The Bills went 69 yards on eight plays, finished off by Chandler’s second touchdown of the day from 11 yards out despite taking two consecutive penalties on third-and-goal situations.
Kansas City went three and out once they got the ball back, and then the Bills again went back to work. Roscoe Parrish returned a punt 28 yards to the Kansas City 32. It took the Bills six plays to find the end zone, capped off with Fitzpatrick’s fourth and final touchdown of the game, a four-yard pass to Donald Jones and the Bills were all over the Chiefs 34-7.
Bills running back C.J. Spiller finished off the scoring for the game with a 9-yard touchdown run, the first of his career, with just under 12 minutes left in the game. Buffalo finished the game with former Chief Tyler Thigpen at quarterback and most of the reserves saw a good chunk of playing time over the final 11 minutes of the game. Bryan Scott led the Bills with eight tackles. Scott and Johnson each had a sack.
For the defending AFC West champs, you couldn’t have scripted a worse afternoon for Kansas City. After struggling in training camp and averaging about a touchdown per game in the preseason, the Chiefs were dealt a severe reality check and were showered with boos by their home fans. McCluster’s opening kickoff fumble was a killer, but he wasn’t the only culprit contributing to the Chiefs’ horrific outing. Kansas City’s secondary surrendered four touchdowns and failed to generate any pressure or pass rush consistently against Buffalo’s perceived weak offensive line. Tamba Hali registered a sack, but other than that I can’t recall another time in the game where Fitzpatrick was in danger.
Cassel threw for just 119 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and finished with a quarterback rating of 64.5. He averaged just 3.3 yards per pass attempt. His longest completion of the game went for 20 yards. Kansas City’s rushing attack never materialized against the NFL’s worst rushing defense in 2010. Charles led the Chiefs with 56 yards on 10 carries and McCluster gained 42 yards on only four carries. A year after devouring the Bills with 320 combined rushing yards, Charles and Thomas Jones combined for only 59 yards on Sunday. The Chiefs converted just 3-of-13 on third down while the Bills went 7-of-14.
So, after going 7-1 at Arrowhead last season the Bills have already given the Chiefs as many homes losses as they had a year ago. This marks the first time since 1992 that Buffalo scored 40 points in their opening game; they pounded the Los Angeles Rams 40-7 that year.
Buffalo put together one heck of a game in the season opener. Faced with a stiff challenge of trying to steal one in Arrowhead with going agaisnt one of the league’s top rushing attacks, the Bills aced their first test with flying colors and embarrassed the Chiefs on their own turf. Not only they did create turnovers, but instead of settling for field goals as they have so many times over the years, they displayed a killer instinct and produced touchdowns. It’s one game and one victory, and while I don’t believe the Bills made any kind of signifcant “statements” in Sunday’s win, but you have to like the game plan and the execution they displayed against a division champ and playoff team from a year ago. If the Bills are ever going to turn this ship around in the right direction, they need to start beating good teams and they took a small step in the right direction against the Chiefs.
Kansas City now must go back to the drawing board, while the Bills head home next Sunday, Sept. 18 for their home opener against another AFC West opponent, the Oakland Raiders