ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The game lived up to its billing.
In the seventh meeting between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs this decade, it was the visiting Chiefs who prevailed, winning a 27-24 thriller in an AFC Divisional Playoff from frigid Buffalo. The Chiefs, playing in their first road playoff game of the Patrick Mahomes era, sealed the game after Buffalo kicker Tyler Bass missed a would-be, game-tying 44-yard field goal wide right with under two minutes to play.
Kansas City returns to its familiar place in the AFC Championship, where Andy Reid’s squad will meet the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium next week.
Here are the biggest takeaways from both teams in the contest.
Kansas City Chiefs
This season’s AFC Championship Game won’t be another edition of the Arrowhead Invitational, but it will include the Chiefs.
The Chiefs advanced to a sixth straight conference title game after another in their collection of epic playoff victories. The lead changed hands five times before the Chiefs held off the Bills on their final drive.
The Chiefs will play the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday in the conference title game. The game will be played in Baltimore after the last five AFC Championship Games were played at Arrowhead Stadium.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: In an indication of how the Chiefs were being handled by the Bills when Buffalo ran the ball, the Bills through three quarters averaged 3.9 yards before contact per rush. They were hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on just three of 31 rushing attempts to that point. The Chiefs allowed 182 rushing yards, one reason they were at big deficits in time of possession and number of plays run.
Promising trend: The Chiefs were finally able to finish some drives. Their first two scores of the game were field goals, and at that point 13 of their last 16 scoring drives were field goals. Only three ended in touchdowns. But they were able to finish a drive late in the first half and another early in the third quarter with touchdowns, both on passes from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce. They then punched in another drive early in the fourth period on Isiah Pacheco‘s four-yard touchdown run.
QB breakdown: Mahomes had another epic playoff game against the Bills in the playoffs. The Bills opted to play coverage, as opposed to putting pressure on Mahomes, and he took advantage of that strategy. Mahomes still was able to get some big plays down the field and finished 17-of-23 for 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns. — Adam Teicher
The ball was in Josh Allen‘s hands to put together a late touchdown drive to give the Bills the lead and take time off the clock.
But the Bills got zero points out of a 16-play, 54-yard drive when Tyler Bass‘ 44-yard field goal went wide right following two straight Allen incompletions, handing the Chiefs’ the ball back with 1:43 left on the clock and a three-point lead that would ultimately end the game at 27-24. When the Buffalo offense needed a drive more than ever, they were unable to get it. After holding a 17-13 lead, the Bills only scored once in the second half and the Buffalo defense struggled to stop the Chiefs.
The Bills were unable to get past the hurdle that has been Kansas City in the playoffs, falling to 0-3 in the postseason with Mahomes facing Allen at quarterback. The loss ends a six-game winning streak and sends the Bills into the offseason with big questions to answer after losing in the Divisional Round for a third straight season.
Biggest hole in the game plan: The defensive response coming out of halftime. Even when considering the number of injuries this unit has, the adjustments made didn’t work. Kansas City’s offense seemingly came out to start the third quarter with no issues at all moving the ball downfield, putting together consecutive 75-yard touchdown drives of six and eight plays to take over the lead of the game and put the game on the shoulders of Allen and the offense.
Promising trend: The success of the Bills’ offensive line and rushers. The Bills running game got going early and often, with its rushers not being hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on their first 15 attempts and only on three of their first 31. The success of the running game allowed Buffalo to extend long drives, including five of 11 plays or more, and control the time of possession throughout the game. Allen and running backs James Cook and Ty Johnson all shined as rushers with the quarterback running for two scores, tying the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts (2022) for the most rushing touchdowns in a season (regular season and playoffs) with 18.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: Wide receiver Khalil Shakir made an impressive catch on his 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter, part of a strong game for the second-year player. Just how unlikely was the score? Per Next Gen Stats, Shakir had 0.3 yards of distance from the sideline with L’Jarius Sneed as the nearest defender in coverage. The reception was Sneed’s first touchdown allowed in coverage as the nearest defender since Week 15 of the 2022 season. The completion probability was 26%. — Alaina Getzenberg