It was one of those nights when everything that could have gone wrong did, plus a few little bonus mishaps that no one could have thought of.
For the Kansas City Chiefs, there was no end to the misery until the clock finally hit zero. All that could be said at the end of an evening when the skies dumped rain on Arrowhead, where the game was delayed more than an hour because of it, where Patrick Mahomes threw two picks and the Buffalo Bills waltzed away with a resounding 38-20 victory, was that it was just one of those games.
Yet it was one of those games that the Chiefs are experiencing remarkably often lately and one that they simply never used to have.
“Buffalo did a nice job against us,” head coach Andy Reid told reporters. “They were better than we were tonight. We didn’t handle ourselves in the right way and it’s up to me to put that right. We are embarrassed by it, we didn’t play well. We’ve got to do better.”
It isn’t time to panic, because panic never did anyone any good, but Kansas City’s third loss of the campaign is enough cause for genuine concern for a team that won a Super Bowl in February 2020 and played for another one eight months ago.
At 2-3 there are headaches aplenty. First, they are in fourth place in the AFC West, two games behind the surging Los Angeles Chargers. Looking further ahead, they are effectively three games back from the Bills (factoring in the tiebreaker) and you’d be forgiven for assuming any return to the biggest game of all now runs through Buffalo.
“You don’t execute, you don’t win football games,” Mahomes said, a couple of weeks back. Those words never felt more appropriate, as the Bills were the ones to pull off the big plays and make them count.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Chiefs had the aura of being an unsolvable problem for the rest of the NFL. In truth, there is no such puzzle, and there never was. For all the efficacy – usually – of the potent attacking force assembled, there are cracks starting to appear.
It would be wrong to say the Chiefs have been worked out. But they’ve been seen enough, admired enough, copied enough, analyzed enough, that it’s no longer a completely unfair fight.
Mahomes’ throws ended up in the wrong hands twice against Buffalo, the first returned for a pick-six by Micah Hyde that gave the Bills a 31-13 cushion midway through the third quarter.
What’s happening here is that the Chiefs’ defense, which has struggled mightily throughout this season, is putting extra pressure on Mahomes. He is a quarterback capable of reeling off touchdown drive after touchdown drive and has receiving parts and an offensive line capable of making it happen.
Now though, at times, it feels like they have to do something transformative each time he touches the ball, and that’s an entirely different level of pressure.
What might or might not have happened had the weather not led to a length delay at halftime falls firmly into the category of “things we will never know.”
Either way, it was an unfortunate interlude – and a long one – fans urged to seek shelter in the stadium concourse as the murk persisted.
In the not-so-old days, Kansas City might have come roaring back, needing only the tiniest spark to launch into a dramatic recovery. Momentarily, it looked as if they had it when a failed fourth-down conversion, from a drop, was negated by a personal foul penalty for roughing the passer. Just the kind of opportunity K.C. relishes the opportunity to take. They didn’t.
On the other side of the ball, Josh Allen was imperious, unflustered and felt like he had a ton of time to do what he wanted. He flung the slippery ball around with accuracy, finishing with 315 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while adding 59 yards and a score on the ground.
The game plan that involved Allen taking matters into his own hands, or feet, with frequency, didn’t always work. But it sent a clear message – “we’re coming to get you.”
Mahomes can still make magic happen with his mind and his unique traits of physicality. However, football stands still for no one. The time when a championship window was wide open for the Chiefs and all they had to do was walk through? That’s over. If another one is to appear it has to be carved out. For now, they simply need to get better, more coherent and far, far less disjointed.
If the Chiefs can’t do that, then more nights where everything goes wrong, like this one, may beckon.
Here’s what others have said …
Skip Bayless, Undisputed: “Patrick Mahomes is devolving as a quarterback. There’s no more discipline left in his game, he’s trying to live up to the hype.”
Shannon Sharpe, Undisputed (on how worried he is about the Chiefs, on a scale of 1-to-10): “I’m a 10, I’ve been worried since opening day. The defense seems to be getting worse. Mahomes needs to understand that his defense isn’t good enough to bail him out of turnovers. The Chiefs are in trouble.”
Colin Cowherd, The Herd: “Forget great team, right now Kansas City isn’t a good team… Buffalo beats them 10/10 times.”