A column by Sun Senior Columnist Chuck Pollock
After going 8-14 in one-possession games, many from self-inflicted errors — either coaching gaffes or execution errors — the Bills at last found out how the other half lives.
It’s not fair to say Buffalo was “lucky” to have beaten the Chiefs, 20-17, Sunday afternoon at Kansas City.
But, not before the Arrowhead Stadium crowd booed the officials in rage, and coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, two normally passive voices, were heard loud-and-clear.
For a while, this seemed to be an inspired Bills team, haven shaken off a nightmare two weeks, and four last-quarter defeats in the preious eight games.
Behind quarterback Josh Allen — a touchdown pass to running back James Cook and a scoring push/run by the QB — Buffalo was up 14-0 barely 12 minutes in.
But alas, these are the Bills, specialists in blowing late leads and sure enough, early in the fourth quarter, KC tied it at 17. This time, though, Buffalo had an answer as Allen drove them to Tyler Bass’ game-leading field goal.
Unfortunately, Mahomes had just under two minutes and a pair of timeouts to take the Chiefs to the tying three-pointer or winning TD.
Then came the game’s controversial play, at least in the eyes of the Kansas City players, coaches and fans.
Mahomes, facing 2nd-and-10 from Buffalo’s 49 yard line with 1:12 to play, drilled a 25-yard completion to tight end Travis Kelce who abruptly stopped and launched a lateral to wide receiver Kadarius Toney who motored 24 untouched yards into the end zone.
However, the touchdown celebration was interrupted by a flag at the line of scrimmage. Toney had lined up in the neutral zone and the 5-yard infraction wiped out the TD. The Bills then held Mahomes and his deflated offense to three incompletions and the game was over.
McDermott, who has had the worst two weeks in his coaching career, threw his arms in the air in relief. An enraged Mahomes screamed at the officials, punctuating his anger by slamming his helmet into the turf.
In the postgame, both Reid and Mahomes were toned down when expressing their frustration with the call.
The coach’s gripe was that Toney should have been given a warning, which, apparently, happened in the past but was changed this year. Reid concluded by saying, “It’s a bit embarrassing for the National Football League for it to take place.”
Mahomes, admitting his post-game outburst was uncharacteristic, was more expansive.
“You want to see the guys on the field win the game,” he said. “Last week I didn’t say anything about the flag that didn’t get called on Marquez (Valdes-Scantling, a seemingly obvious pass interference in the end zone in the final minute of a 27-19 loss at Green Bay). And to have (Sunday’s game) end like that is tough.”
OF COURSE, not mentioned after the game was McDermott’s decision to activate Von Miller, the edge rusher facing a felony domestic abuse charge in Dallas for physical violence against his pregnant girlfriend.
You got the idea he was going to play during the week when general manager Brandon Beane repeatedly maintained “We don’t have all the information” and pointed out Miller was eligible to play as the league had neither put him on the exemption list or suspended him as charges have yet to be filed.
Needless to say, McDermott’s decision, judging by emails and social media, was hardly popular with women. Many called it hypocrisy realling punter Matt Araiza, taken in the sixth round of last year’s draft. The so-called “Punt God” had his name tied to a campus rape and he was immediately waived in preseason. Subsequently Araiza was exonerated but still can’t get another NFL job.
Meanwhile, Miller played a few snaps and put up his usual microscopic numbers over the last nine games. He still has one tackle, one assist and, because he was credited with two against the Chiefs, a trio of quarterback hurries.
This was the non-contributor McDermott chose to activate, the concerns of the team’s female fans be damned.
NOTES FROM the Bills’ win that put them in a six-way tie for the sixth and seventh playoff spots in the AFC along with Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh:
— McDermott is now 7-0 after the bye week in his seven seasons as Bills coach and has beaten the Chiefs in three straight regular-season games
— Buffalo’s first takeaway came when defensive end A.J. Epenesa, the NFL leader in tipped passes, did just that of a Patrick Mahomes throw, then caught the ball for his second interception of the season. But he suffered a rib injury on the play, left the game, came back, and ultimately left and didn’t return..
The second takeaway came when the ball was punched away after a Chiefs wide receiver Rashee Rice catch by cornerback Christian Benford with Bills nickel back Taron Johnson recovering.
— Kansas City’s lone takeaway was an interception of a Josh Allen pass by rookie safety Chamarri Conner, the first of his career.
— Buffalo sacked Mahomes only once with tackle Ed Olier and end Greg Rousseau sharing it. Oliver how has 6½ and Rousseau 4½.
The Chiefs sacked Allen three times with cornerback Trent McDuffie and ends George Karlaptis and Charles Omenihu getting one apiece.
— Johnson led the team in tackles with nine and was tied at six in solos with linebacker Tyrel Dodson.
Kansas City safety Mike Edwards had game-highs in tackles with 11 and solos 10.
— Buffalo’s inactives were offensive tackles Germain Ifedi and Alec Anderson, safety Damar Hamiln, defensive end Kingsley Jonathan and defensive tackle Poona Ford.
The Bills brought tight end Dawson Knox and cornerback Kaiir Elam back from injured reserve. Knox was active and to make room, linebacker A.J. Klein was waived while Elam went to the practice squad.
Safety Micah Hyde left the game in the second half with a recurrence of the “stinger” issue that has plagued his neck and didn’t return.
— Among the inactives for the Chiefs were three starters: running back Isaiah Pacheco (shoulder), offensive tackle Donovan Smith (neck) and linebacker Drue Tranquill (concussion).
(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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