Chiefs Get Humbled vs. Bills in Primetime, Fall 38-20: Key Observations and Numbers to Know
The Chiefs are a bad football team
It doesn’t matter if you have some top-end, generational talent if you also allow 8.1 yards per play and turn it over four times.
The Chiefs just aren’t a good football team. We saw that again Sunday night as they fell apart at the hands of the Buffalo Bills by a score of 38-20 at Arrowhead Stadium.
It was yet another big stage for the whole world to see just how far the Chiefs have to go to earn the praise they’ve already been given.
The conversation will turn to accountability and looking for someone to blame - considering we’ve seen many of these same issues before, particularly defensively, and then what percentage of the blame should be shared by the personnel staff, coaching staff, or some individual players themselves?
Right now, it’s just crazy to think we’re only six weeks’ removed from respectably-thought points being made of whether or not the Chiefs could go undefeated this year.
As the Chiefs sit at the bottom of the division they’ve won the last five-consecutive seasons, here are ten observations from this excruciating loss to the Bills on Sunday night …
Turnovers continue to be a focal point
Byron Pringle fumbled in the first quarter — giving the ball to the Bills with a short field. The Chiefs wasted a rare defensive stop on a possession they gave away. A pick six extended the game to a three score lead. The Chiefs can’t keep beating themselves.
The linebacker struggles continue
Willie Gay’s return was not enough to mask issues at the second level of the defense. Coverage was as bad as it has been all year — with linebackers completely lost and late to get to their assignment. Anthony Hitchens looks completely lost against the run and pass — a surprise considering how long he’s been in Kansas City. It’s unacceptable.
Explosive plays kills Chiefs’ defense
The defense was poor at limiting explosive plays. Some situational football was good at times, but the Bills were able to get some big chunks that led to a lot of points. While the defense was at least able to get off the field and limit the Bills to field goals, the consistency wasn’t there from down to down — and Buffalo capitalized.
Lightning struck twice
The pain of the first half was delayed longer with a lightning strike — adding time to the excruciating feelings created by a horrendous start to the game. Insult to injury.
Slow second half start offensively
The Chiefs offense completely squandered two forced punts from the defense — and in fact added to the deficit with a Mahomes pick six off the hands of Tyreek Hill. An awful start to the second half doomed them — even when the defense did enough to get them back in the game.
Mahomes was off
The All-World quarterback didn’t have it today. He was inaccurate — throwing the ball short of receivers. He seemed to lack confidence in the offense at times — throwing short of the sticks when he normally keeps firing. He was also early to exit the pocket frequently.
Drops didn’t help
When Mahomes was accurate, receivers were dropping passes in key situations. Hill had two big drops on third downs — one leading to an interception. Mecole Hardman was bailed out of a fourth down drop due to penalty.
Josh Gordon showed something
Another athletic, big-bodied target for Mahomes to throw the ball up to in key situations. Mahomes scrambled to his right and gave Gordon a shot down the field — throwing a ball up to the former Baylor Bear. Gordon went up to get the ball and bring it down for a first down.
In-game decision making all over the place
Andy Reid’s decision making was all over the place — aggressively attempting a 4th and 5 in Bills territory in the first half, then electing to punt a similar situation down two scores in the third quarter. He kicked an extra point to put his team down 11 in the fourth quarter. It didn’t make sense in totality.
Championship Swagger is missing
The Chiefs need to find it quick. Their championship DNA does not show up on the field right now. They welcomed a top contender in the AFC into their house and were embarrassed. Things need to change, and change quickly.
Play of the Game
There are a lot of options to choose from for the Play of the Game this week, unfortunately for the Chiefs not many of them are good. Whether coverage busts on the back-end, poor contain on Josh Allen runs, or just bad tackling in general, the defense gave up a massive share of big plays throughout the game that could all be considered “game changing”... but that’s not where this segment is going this week.
That’s right, I’m jumping over to the offensive side of the football early in the second half. The Chiefs defense was coming off back to back forced punts and while the offense couldn’t do anything with their first possession, they got another chance. This was the third down play that occurred on that drive.
Let’s focus on the obvious first and foremost, an interception thrown for a TD is bad. The way it happened - slipping through the best WRs hands - is even more agonizing. Instead of the Chiefs marching down the field to make this a one score game and put a ton of pressure on the Bills’ offense, they end up giving up free points to essentially put the game away.
What really cemented this pick for me as the Play of the Game is how much it speaks to some of the Chiefs’ offensive struggles this season. A lot has been made about their crazy efficiency and new found quick-passing game. While that’s all been fun and dandy, there have been stretches it has seemed forced and like the Chiefs offense as we knew it had changed.
This game was a premier example of how that looks when the execution isn’t flawless. No deep shots, no vertical attack, and really nothing was happening over the intermediate areas as well. The Chiefs were left trying to beat man coverage with short curl routes and trying to set pick plays over the middle of the field.
To counter that, the Bills dialed up a Cover-1 Lurk call which drops one of their deep safeties down into the middle of the field. It’s very similar to Cover 1 Robber only the S can creep down even closer to the LoS, something no team would have dared to do to KC even last year. While Buffalo couldn’t plan on a tipped INT, they had this play pegged and well covered from the get go.
When you are out-coaching the opponent at such a high level consistently, good things are bound to go your way and that’s what locked this game up for the Bills.
-9 - Turnover differential this season
It seems simplistic to boil it down to this, but it’s true: the Kansas City Chiefs have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot and made it more difficult to win games by turning the ball over. They’re taking an already-difficult early season slate and turning the difficulty up even more by not protecting the ball. The Chiefs have already turned the ball over 11 times in five games this season -- and they only turned it over 16 times all of last year.
Conversely, the defense has struggled to force turnovers this season. After forcing four in the first two games, the Chiefs haven’t been able to turn their last three opponents over (yes, the penalty was egregious and they should have one this week). In 2020, the Chiefs defense forced 22 turnovers and had just two games where they didn’t force one -- against Carolina and the Week 17 Chargers matchup. They officially surpassed that tonight, and it’s furthered the disparity in the turnover differential.
13.0 - Yards per attempt by Bills QB Josh Allen
To say that the Chiefs defense allowed explosive plays this week would be an understatement. Allen was able to throw just 20 times for 259 yards, picking up chunk play after chunk play. The Chiefs defense is well aware of Allen’s ability to unleash vertical shots with a big arm, and yet they continually allowed the Bills to get behind their coverage shells. The Chiefs appeared to be trying to cut underneath routes and sit on some of the “smaller” stuff, but it came at the expense of Dan Sorensen, L’Jarius Sneed, and the rest of the Chiefs secondary.
This defense is struggling with just about everything: coverage, run defense, rushing the passer, and tackling. They’ve been poor -- outside of a handful of drives here and there -- for the majority of the year. However, the consistency that Allen was able to get over the top of the defense -- without a blitz taking players out of the coverage shell -- was embarrassing for the majority of the first half of this games.