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With a clearer mind and a chance to actually look back and fully comprehend the mayhem that took place Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium, as I expected it would be, the Buffalo Bills’ 42-36 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs is just as galling.
I would imagine you’re experiencing something similar, trying to figure out how the Bills were doomed, then had it won, then were doomed again, then had it won again, and finally, were doomed once and for all.
There was less drama unfolding on re-opened Broadway Sunday night than there was in the final six minutes of this instant classic, a game that will forever hold a place at the very top of the shelf in the archives at NFL Films.
For a franchise that certainly doesn’t have a deep reservoir of playoff appearances - just 21 in their 62 years of existence which, as you know is just three more than the New England Patriots have had in the 21st century - the Bills certainly have a habit of getting themselves involved in some all-timers.
Super Bowl 25 remains one of the greatest and most dramatic in history; the comeback game is still the greatest postseason rally ever; the Music City Miracle will be replayed forever; and now this latest colossal epic which is already being called, flat out and recency bias aside, the greatest playoff game in NFL annals.
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“I mean, there’s not much to be said; everybody kind of feels the same way. It was devastating,” tight end Dawson Knox said of the sad ending. “But, everything that happens can be turned into something good in the future. I think it’s gonna be a good foundation for us.”
Here are some final observations I had:
This is why Gabriel Davis should have been playing more
Until Emmanuel Sanders suffered a knee injury in Tampa Bay which forced the Bills to get Davis onto the field more, it never made any sense to me why he wasn’t playing a bigger role.
This is a player who led the Bills as a rookie in 2020 with a 17.1 yards per catch average and caught seven TD passes. When the Bills signed Sanders, Davis was bumped to No. 4 on the depth chart and played only 47% of the offensive snaps.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2022
Well, we all saw what Davis is capable of as he became the first player in NFL history to catch four TD passes in a playoff game on his way to eight receptions for 201 yards.
“He’s a guy that always does the right things,” said Josh Allen. “It doesn’t feel real that he’s only a second-year guy in the league; it feels like he’s been here so much longer than that, but for him to do that yesterday was unbelievable. At the start of the season, he was begging for more opportunities. I just told him, ‘stay the course,’ and that’s exactly what he did.”
I would have to think Davis is a lock to be a starter in 2022, no matter if it’s Brian Daboll or someone else as the offensive coordinator.
Stefon Diggs’ performance was unacceptable
On a night when the Bills scored 36 points and gained 422 yards, and never turned the ball over, it’s hard to quibble about much. But the failure to get Diggs involved was egregious as he caught only three passes for seven yards and was targeted just six times on Allen’s 37 attempts.
Yes, the Chiefs were doubling him. So what? He gets doubled all the time, occasionally by better pass defenses than Kansas City’s. And while Allen is the man who decides where the ball goes, I have to think that Diggs simply wasn’t winning enough for the quarterback to go his way against a secondary that was without safety Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback Rashad Fenton and had mediocre-at-best safety Daniel Sorensen on the field for 92% of the Chiefs defensive snaps.
“I think they had a good plan doubling him, especially on some of these third downs, rolling the safety over the top, playing two high,” Allen said, adding that because of all the attention on Diggs, Davis was able to take advantage.
Allen and Diggs have been a great duo in their two years together, but after Diggs had two 100-yard games last postseason against Indy and Baltimore, his last three games (including two against the Chiefs) have resulted in just 12 catches for 144 yards.
Bad time for the LBs to play terribly
Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds have been mainstays in the Buffalo defense for five and four years, respectively. They almost never come off the field, for good reason. But in playing all 76 snaps in this game, they were just awful.
Milano, one of the Bills consistently best players, graded out dead last among the 17 players who played on defense per Pro Football Focus. PFF had him giving up seven receptions on seven targets for 76 yards including the 25-yarder to Travis Kelce that set up the tying field goal, and then the game-winning TD to Kelce.
Edmunds graded out 16th as he allowed 10 receptions on 11 targets for 108 yards including 54 yards after the catch.
On the outside, Levi Wallace, perhaps playing his final game for the Bills, gave up 130 yards on six targets, five of which were completed. Ninety of that was after the catch, the big one being Tyreek Hill’s 64-yard catch and run TD.
On Kansas City’s final 15 plays, it averaged 12.9 yards and scored two TDs and a field goal against what was supposed to be the NFL’s best defense.
“It’s just an unfortunate situation that we were in, that things didn’t go our way,” Edmunds said.
Patrick Mahomes provides a grim realty
So much was made last year following the AFC Championship Game loss of how the Bills were going to build their roster specifically to beat the Chiefs. It worked out in the regular season game, but when it mattered most, for the second January in a row, Mahomes eviscerated the Bills.
He is now 3-1 against the Bills, and it is becoming quite clear that if the Bills ever hope to make a dent in the playoffs, they will have to scale Mount Mahomes.
“That’s the reality of the situation, right?” coach Sean McDermott said. “It is. It’s the reality of our situation and we’ve got to continue to work to beat him. Give him the credit, he made a couple plays down the stretch and he had a great game. That’s what great players do, they make big plays in big moments of big games and he made big plays.”
Mitch Morse, who was Mahomes’ center during his breakthrough 2018 season, said, “He’s a great player and I don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon. We look forward to the next opportunity.”
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The overtime rules need to be changed
I know that sounds like a knee-jerk reaction, but it’s not. I’ve never liked the OT rules. Major League Baseball plays full extra innings; the NBA plays five-minute OT periods; the NHL plays sudden-death for five minutes, but that’s a game where both sides have an equal chance of winning.
In the NFL, it’s just stupid that both teams don’t get one possession and at that point, if it’s still tied, next score wins.
“It’s just horrible,” said offensive tackle Dion Dawkins. “It’s just like, how could the game come down to one possession? If they score, the game is over. If they kick a field goal, the game is not over and we get a chance. It’s just weird.”
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Yes, it is. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted out the OT stats for playoff games since the new rules went into effect in 2010. This was the 11th OT game and the team that won the coin toss is now 10-1, with seven of the winners scoring on the first possession.
“It just sucks,” Dawkins said. “Hopefully they can use us as an example, and since they’re talking about this game so highly, they should definitely reconsider something.”
Allen had a more even-keel reaction. “Yeah, the rules are what they are and I can’t complain about that because if it was the other way around, we’d be celebrating, too,” said Allen. “So, it is what it is at this point. And we just didn’t make enough plays tonight.”
Sal Maiorana can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills loss to Chiefs wasn't only because of stupid overtime rules