The Bills just weren’t ready.
Josh Allen was not ready. Sean McDermott was probably not even ready.
It’s something that might make this loss go down a little easier for Bills fans in a couple days. This wasn’t an agonizing one point defeat where one player, one lucky bounce or one fortunate call would have sent Buffalo to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs were clearly better and the Bills just weren’t ready to measure up on a stage like the AFC Championship.
I did not think the Chiefs could simply flip a switch and become the Chiefs we saw win a Super Bowl last year. I was wrong. Not only did the Chiefs flip the switch against the Bills, they didn’t even have to flip it right at the start.
We shouldn’t be surprised that Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes made so many big plays. They do that quite often. The surprise is that a guy like Stefon Diggs made so few.
I think winning the high level games, the championships, is a skill that must be learned and almost never comes naturally. Mahomes didn’t win it all in his first try. Heck, even Michael Jordan needed a few climbs up the mountain before he reached the top.
The Bills could probably still use a few lessons on how to handle adversity. For all their offensive prowess, they never once rallied from a two score deficit this season. In the three chances they had at it (Titans, Chiefs twice), they never really came close. Then, there’s the little fricas at the end which Allen even admitted needs to be dealt with better the next time.
This AFC championship loss does not erase any of what the Bills accomplished this season. They found themselves a franchise quarterback and a franchise quarterback with a ceiling that contends for an MVP. That’s a pretty darn big box checked. They’ve got an elite number one receiver, a head coach with a program that works and a general manager that knows how to find the parts to make that program grow. You’ll win lots of games with those pieces.
The Bills have restored hope to a city and a fanbase that, for such a long time, had only known hopelessness. This is a team trending up and a team that will almost certainly go to next season as the consensus number two in the AFC behind the likely two-time Super Bowl champs.
That doesn’t mean things will be easy in 2021 or that the Bills are guaranteed to win another division title. They have plenty of key parts heading to free agency. The most notable is linebacker Matt Milano, but Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams will also be priority re-signings.
The reduction in salary cap will hurt every team and the Bills will be no exception. Expect John Brown and Mitch Morse to be mentioned among the names who could become cap casualties. Every season is its own journey. Having a high level quarterback gives the Bills lots of chances, but they’ll have to make lots of good decisions all over again.
There is also some concern that, even if the Bills make those good decisions, it may not matter.
Buffalo came into this AFC championship mostly healthy. They came in on a roll. They came in with depth and a swagger. They got the better of the breaks in the AFC Championship. The Chiefs even spotted Buffalo nine points. It all wasn’t nearly enough. Patrick Mahomes simply patted the Bills on their heads and sent them on their way.
It’s possible Super Bowl 55 may be a meeting between the quarterback who tormented the Bills for the last two decades and the one who may torment them for the next two. This isn’t, solely, a Bills problem. This is a problem for the entire AFC. If this Bills team can’t beat the Chiefs, could anyone?
There is no team more equipped in the short term to knock the Chiefs off their pedestal than Buffalo. It’s clear the Bills still have some learning and growing to do. They got quite an education courtesy the Chiefs on Sunday night.
After licking their wounds and settling their tempers, maybe next time Buffalo will be ready.