KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—As the final seconds ticked away, Kansas City’s Eric Hicks wondered about the critics who’ve been saying the unbeaten Chiefs were more lucky than good.
“I wonder what they’re saying now?” said the scowling defensive end, who had one of three sacks of Drew Bledsoe. “Maybe now they’ll shut their mouths.”
Kansas City is just the 12th team since 1972 to reach the midway point without a loss.
“This feeling is indescribable,” said Ryan Sims, the 315-pound tackle whose goal line pick thwarted the Bills’ final touchdown threat. “After playing all those close ones, we just figured what the heck, it’s time to go out and get ourselves a laugher.”
Now the Chiefs get a week off to savor their perfect half season and ponder the fact that of the other 11 teams that reached the halfway point unbeaten, eight advanced to the Super Bowl and six hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
Already leading the league in takeaways, the Chiefs recovered two fumbles, intercepted Drew Bledsoe three times and backup Alex Van Pelt twice.
“To keep a team with so many talented offensive player from scoring a touchdown is just unbelievable,” linebacker Scott Fujita said.
After winning their first three by relatively comfortable margins, the Chiefs won four straight cliffhangers, causing many to question them.
Last Monday night, they hung on to beat Oakland 17-10 in a game that ended with the Raiders on the 1-yard line. The Chiefs also needed overtime to beat Green Bay 40-34, and rallied to edge Denver 24-23, thanks to Hall’s 93-yard punt return in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score.
But after Pierson Proleau blocked Jason Baker’s punt through the end zone for a safety that gave the Bills a 2-0 lead in the first quarter, the Chiefs took charge and rolled to a 28-5 halftime lead.
“All week long, people were saying this is a lucky 7-0 team,” said Richardson. “The bottom line is, if Trent Green says it or Priest Holmes, somebody I go to battle with, then I would take it to heart. But if you’re not stepping across the stripes with us, we can’t allow any outside distractions.”
Hall, who set an NFL record with touchdown returns in four straight games, caught Green’s perfectly thrown pass in full stride near the 40, split defenders Lawyer Milloy and Antoine Winfield and sailed untouched into the end zone.
“They were playing real tight on Tony Gonzalez,” said Hall, who had four catches for 107 yards. “Trent told me he was going to try to pump the safeties and try to hit me in the seam. That’s exactly what happened.”
Said Buffalo coach Gregg Williams, “We were in a fire zone and we just didn’t play coverage technique.”
Hall’s average gain of 79.8 yards on his 11 career touchdowns is the longest of any player in history with at least 10 TDs.
Gonzalez, the four-time Pro Bowl tight end, hauled in catches for 26 and 10 yards to set up Holmes’ 4-yard TD run around right end less than a minute into the second quarter.
“We gave up big plays,” said Williams. “That’s the frustrating thing about it, giving up big plays that we haven’t given up.”
Dexter McCleon scooped up Josh Reed’s fumble and gave Kansas City the ball on its own 45 in the second quarter. Eight plays later, Holmes skirted around right end on a 13-yard run for his league-leading 11th rushing touchdown.
The Chiefs added their last TD on Holmes’ 15-yard run, with Green making a crushing block on cornerback Nate Clements. Morten Andersen kicked a 49-yard field goal, and Buffalo’s Rian Lindell had a 20-yard field goal in the first half.
Travis Henry had 124 yards on 22 carries for the Bills.
Holmes’ three touchdown runs gave him 41 with the Chiefs, moving him past Christian Okoye into second place on the team career list. … Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who is recovering from prostate surgery, missed Sunday night’s game. “I think we made Lamar Hunt feel a lot better, sitting in his hospital bed,” coach Dick Vermeil said. … Buffalo OT Jonas Jennings sustained a hip injury in the first half. X-rays were negative, but Jennings did not return. … Chiefs LB Mike Maslowski sustained what the team called“mild head trauma” when he tackled FB Sam Gash in the third quarter.