Bills season ends with 38-24 loss to Chiefs in AFC Championship

Buffalo Bills

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It took the Kansas City Chiefs five frustrating decades to make their second Super Bowl appearance.

Now, the defending champs are headed there for the second straight year.

Showing no lingering effects from a concussion, Patrick Mahomes sliced up Buffalo’s secondary with ruthless efficiency as the Chiefs rolled to a 38-24 victory over Josh Allen and the Bills in the AFC championship game Sunday night. Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, with most of it to favorite targets Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill,

The Chiefs will face a familiar foe — Tom Brady — and the NFC champ Buccaneers in two weeks in Tampa, Florida.

Kelce finished with 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and Hill added nine catches for 172 yards, becoming the first duo in NFL history with consecutive games of at least 100 yards receiving each in a single postseason.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams added short TD runs for the Chiefs, who will try to become the eighth franchise and first team since the Brady-led New England Patriots in 2003 and ’04 to defend the Lombardi Trophy.

Allen, who had his worst game of the season in a Week 6 loss to the Chiefs, again struggled against the blitzing Kansas City defense. He finished with 287 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception, but a big chunk of his numbers came as the Bills tried to rally from a 38-15 deficit in the final minutes.

Their frustration boiled over with 3:19 to go, when Allen was getting sacked by Tanoh Kpassagnon. Alex Okafor finished off the tackle, and Allen pitched the ball in his face in resentment. Offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Dion Dawkins rushed in and leveled Okafor, resulting in a flood of offsetting personal foul penalties.

It capped a bitter loss for the Bills, who had reached their first AFC title game since beating Kansas City at home on Jan. 1, 1994. They had won 11 of 12 since their loss to the Chiefs earlier this season — in fact, they hadn’t trailed in the second half since Week 8 — and were riding a wave of confidence that this might finally be their championship year.

Instead, after finally conquering the Patriots in the AFC East, the Bills have a new roadblock to the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs actually spotted the Bills a 9-0 lead, thanks in large part to Mecole Hardman’s muffed punt inside their 5 that gifted Buffalo a touchdown. But the reigning champs were hardly rattled; the Chiefs, after all, rallied from double-digits in each of their postseason wins last season, including their Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco.

Mahomes and Kelce soon found their groove. And the rest of the Chiefs offense followed suit.

They surgically took apart Buffalo’s defense on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a short TD throw to Hardman — no hard feelings over that fumble. Then, the Chiefs cruised 82 yards in just five plays, the big one Hardman’s 50-yard end-around that set up Williams’ touchdown tumble. Finally, they made it three TDs in three possessions when Edwards-Helaire — in his first game back from an ankle injury — capped a 77-yard drive with a short plunge.

The only answer from Buffalo was Tyler Bass’s chip-shot field goal that made it 21-12 at the break.

You don’t beat Kansas City by kicking field goals from the 3-yard line, though. Or from the 9, where the Bills settled for another one to close within 24-15 late in the third quarter.

That became painfully clear on the ensuing drive. Mahomes hit Hill in stride and the All-Pro wide receiver promptly made the Bills secondary look downright foolish. Weaving in and out of woebegone defenders, Hill was finally caught inside the 5-yard line after a 71-yard gain, ultimately setting up Kelce’s short TD catch a few plays later.

Any hopes the Bills had of a comeback were dashed when Rashad Fenton picked off a tipped pass deep in Kansas City territory. The Chiefs breezily marched the other direction, and Mahomes and Kelce kicked off the celebration of another trip to the Super Bowl when they connected for their second score of the game.

INJURIES

Chiefs: RG Andrew Wylie hurt his knee early in the second half and LT Eric Fisher limped off in the fourth quarter with an injury to his Achilles’ tendon. … CB L’Jarius Sneed and SS Armani Watts were evaluated for concussions.

UP NEXT

The Chiefs and Buccaneers have only played 13 times, and Kansas City had lost five straight before a 27-24 win in Tampa on Nov. 29 — a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Brady is 5-5 in his career against against the Chiefs, including an overtime victory with the Patriots in the AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium two years ago.

Live blog

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WROC) — It’s the Bills and the Chiefs from Arrowhead Stadium for the right to meet Tom Brady and the Bucs in Super Bowl LV.

There will be 17,000 fans in attendance and it’s estimated 4,000 could be Bills fans. A security guard told me this is the largest group of road fans he’s seen for a Chiefs game all year. 

Pregame

The weather is pretty calm for kickoff. Temperatures in the high 30’s with no precipitation and little wind. There is rain expected tonight, but it may not arrive until well after the game is over. 

By now you’ve probably been through all the pregame analysis, so let’s get right into it.

Commentary from News 8 WROC Sports Director Thad Brown in Bold.

1st quarter

Bills got the ball first to start the game. Met with fourth and one at midfield, Buffalo made the first aggressive choice of the game and it paid off — a play-action flip to tight end Dawson Knox and the Bills kept the drive alive. Three unremarkable plays later and the Bills opted for a 51-yard field goal, which Tyler Bass connected on, putting Buffalo up 3-0 early into the contest.

Thad Brown: The Bills 4th down call was brilliant. There are just too many options for the Chiefs to defend to be able to stop it. Also, gotta give Sean McDermott credit for not shying away in his first big moment during this game. Tyler Bass’ 51 yard field goal is the second 50-yard field goal ever in a playoff game during the 52-year history of Arrowhead Stadium. The first was last week. 

Four different Bills players caught passes for Josh Allen on that opening drive, including Cole Beasley who defended a near interception along the sideline on the last third down.

Bills defense held the potent Kansas City offense to the rare three and out (thanks to a costly drop from KC WR Tyreek Hill), punting back to Buffalo who took over at their 15-yard line with 9:58 remaining in the first.

Thad Brown: First break of the game goes the Bills’ way. Hill probably makes that catch 9 times out of 10. Chiefs would have been in the red zone three plays into the game. Instead, Bills get it back. 

Bills drive stymied after Allen took a 15-yard sack, but then another big Bills break. When Corey Bojorquez booted the punt for Buffalo, Mecole Hardman fumbled for Kansas City and the Bills recovered within the Chiefs 5-yard line. Next play, Allen found “The Dawson” Knox in the flats for a 3-yard touchdown.

Bass missed the extra point and Buffalo goes up 9-0 about midway through the first

Thad Brown: Seemed like Mecole Hardman was trying to deke his way around the Bills coverage team by pretending to catch the ball a bit further right than it was. Doesn’t matter who you are in this game. Make a mistake like that and these offenses will stick it in your end zone. That said, missed PATs are also things that can come back to haunt. 

Kansas City had a 9-play, 57-yard drive cooking when they too went for a fourth and short from the Bills’ 20-yard line. In a play that looked remarkably similar to last week’s cliched against the Browns, the Chiefs converted and moved further into the red zone.

And that’s how the first quarter ended: Bills leading 9-0, with the Chiefs threatening.

2nd quarter

And that threat was realized moments into the second when Hardman made up for his earlier fumble, and caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes. Harrison Butker’s PAT went through and the Chiefs trailed the Bills 9-7 with 14:16 left in the half. It was an impressive and steady drive from one of the league’s best offenses: 14 plays, 80 yards, and a fourth down conversion.

Thad Brown: Well, the Chiefs are still the Chiefs. The fourth down play is a good example of how many weapons both these teams have. Any fourth and short should be a go for it almost anywhere on the field. Bills gonna have to keep scoring. 

The Bills drive was stunted when running back Devin Singletary dropped a swing pass from Allen at midfield on second down. The ensuing play had an intentional grounding call followed by a Bills punt. Singletary had a lot of room to run if he caught that ball, but instead the Chiefs get it back at their 18-yard line.

Another big play for Hardman, kicks off the drive with a 50-yard run on a reverse, putting the Chiefs in position to take the lead with either a field goal or touchdown. Few plays later, and the Chiefs did just that, when Damien Williams scored on a 6-yard run. Butker’s knocked in another PAT and put the Chiefs up 14-9 with 9:35 left in the half.

Thad Brown: Can’t allow the big plays to the Chiefs. Rare to get one without Mahomes touching the ball, but that Hardman reverse was a killer. Chiefs offense in a serious groove and the momentum has swung. Might be the most adverse situation the Bills have faced this postseason. Good news for Buffalo is we’re still early in the 2nd quarter. 

Not a strong response from Buffalo. Three and out, including a pair of inaccurate passes from Allen, and a nice run from T.J. Yeldon. Bojorquez punt went 45 yards and out of bounds. Chiefs to take over at their own 23-yard line.

Thad Brown: Allen starts a seemingly huge drive with a pass that should have been intercepted. He ends by missing a pass that should have been a first down. He’s looking tight right now. Bills might need a stop here kinda bad. 

That stop the Bills needed just didn’t happen. Quite the opposite actually as the Chiefs just rolled down the field on a 9-play, 77-yard touchdown drive, capped off by an Edwards-Helaire 1-yard scoring run.

That’s 21 unanswered, after a successful Butker PAT, all in the second quarter. Chiefs lead 21-9 with 4:12 left in the half. Buffalo has had no answer for Kelce, who has nine catches for 92 yards, with time still remaining in the first half.

Down two scores is rare territory for the Bills, who haven’t faced that challenge since … the last time they played the Chiefs in Week 6.

Bills with a little momentum as the team put together an 11-play, 73-yard drive BUT they couldn’t get into the endzone. Held to a field goal after multiple plays inside the Chiefs’ 5-yard line. Bass made the 20-yard field goal to bring the Bills within 9, Chiefs leading 21-12 with second remaining in the half. After a kickoff and kneel down, that was it for the first half.

Thad Brown: Good response drive for Josh Allen there, but the Chiefs are the worst red zone defense in the league. Not getting a TD is a bad finish to that drive. I would have gone for it, but the Bills need lots of points to win this game. Getting points is not a terrible play. It also helps that Buffalo ran the clock down and prevented a late Chiefs drive. KC gets it first to start the second half. The Buffalo D is going to need a stop. Bad. 

3rd quarter

The Chiefs looked like their unstoppable selves to start the third, marching 48 yards on 9 plays, but the Jordan Poyer laid a big hit on Edwards-Helaire to force a fourth down. Andy Reid elected for the field goal and Butker connected from 45 yards out to put the Chiefs ahead 24-12 early in the third quarter.

Thad Brown: Bills needed a stop bad and Jordan Poyer delivers with an elite play. Chiefs still get three, but that’s a win for the Bills defense. It’s gonna be on the offense to stage this rally. 

A big Bills drive (10 plays, 67 yards) couldn’t get into the end zone and the Bills once again settled for a field goal. Bass connected from 27 yards out to narrow the Chiefs’ lead, 25-14 with just under six remaining in the third, but the reality is the Bills will need touchdowns. These red zone field goals just don’t cut it when Kansas City is moving the ball the way they have been.

Thad Brown: I’m fine with the field goal try again there. Bills are staying in the game. But that’s probably the last time Buffalo can kick in a spot like that. 

Why you can’t settle for field goals against the Chiefs? Because Tyreek Hill catches a short pass over the middle, cuts back, and turns it into a 71-yard gain. Less than a minute into their drive, the Chiefs have first and goal. Mahomes found Kelce on a shovel pass a few plays later for a 1-yard touchdown. Butker’s PAT went through and Chiefs grow the lead, 31-15 with 3:29 left in the game.

Important to note: Without the miscue from the Chiefs fumble on a punt return, the Bills would be down 31-8 at this point. It really has been all Chiefs so far, and the Bills haven’t been able to turn their opportunities into touchdowns.

Thad Brown: Bills have been good stopping big plays all season, but not in this game. They crowded the line on the Ty Hill pass and then Hill did Hill things for a 71 yard play. Though the Chiefs should have gone for two to make it a three score lead and really put the pressure on, but the Bills remain within 16. 

Bills carried a 7-play, 43 yard drive to a fourth and one from the Chiefs’ 42-yard line. That ended the third quarter and Buffalo has to go for this, trailing 31-15.

4th quarter

Bills converted the fourth and one to keep the drive alive, but four plays later a tipped pass ended up in Chiefs’ hands. Rashad Fenton picked off Allen and returned it 30 yards to give a huge break for the Chiefs at the worst moment for the Bills.

Thad Brown: The Bills converted a 4th and 1 to open the 4th quarter, but a deflected interception may have put this game away.  It’s the first red zone interception of Josh Allen’s career. If the Bills allow any points to the Chiefs, this game is likely over. 

It is over. Well not technically, but sort of. The ensuing Chiefs drive was 11 plays, 58 yards, chewed up nearly six minutes of clock, and ended with Kelce catching his second touchdown of the game.

PAT went through and Chiefs lead 38-15 with 7:36 left in the game.

Thad Brown: The Chiefs score another TD that should put this away. The Bills had a great year. The Chiefs are just a significant notch better. And they are driving that message home tonight. Loudly. 

Bills put together a quick 10-play, 78 yard touchdown drive for a touchdown. The two point conversion was unsuccessful. Then the Bills got the onside, kicked a field goal

Meanwhile, things got physical, frustration boiled over and some light scuffles happened. A number of unsportsmanlike conduct flags were thrown on each time, but it really didn’t matter, as little this quarter has. Just biding time until the Chiefs make the Super Bowl and the Bills season comes to a close.

Ultimately, it did.

Final score

Chiefs, 38, Bills 24

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