Buffalo Bills: Super Bowl run ends in Kansas City heartbreak (Highlights)

The Buffalo Bills’ couldn’t stop the Kansas City Chiefs’ run to a repeat, losing a two-possession lead in the AFC Championship Game.

The Buffalo Bills’ magic seasons came to an end on Sunday evening in Kansas City, as they fell in the AFC Championship Game to the Kansas City Chiefs by a 38-24 final. Josh Allen put up 375 total yards in his first visit to the conference title game, with Dawson Knox (6 receptions, 42 yards, 1 touchdown), Stefon Diggs (6 receptions, 77 yards), and Cole Beasley (7 receptions, 88 yards) serving as his top receivers.

Kansas City will advance to the Super Bowl for the second straight season, as they’ll take on the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the game’s 55th edition in two weeks (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS). The Chiefs are the defending champions are their triumph over San Francisco last year, but will face a Buccaneers team not only headlined by Tom Brady’s 10th appearance in the game but will also be serving as the first “home” Super Bowl squad with Raymond James Stadium hosting.

The Bills jumped out to a 9-0 lead after the first quarter, opening things up with a 10-play, 42-yard drive that was capped off by a Tyler Bass field goal. His 51-yarder made history, as it was the longest in the playoff history of Arrowhead Stadium. More special teams magic awaited the Bills after Kansas City got the ball back, as Taiwan Jones recovered a punt muffed by Mecole Hardman three yards away from the end zone. It took Allen and company a single play to capitalize, as he found Knox for a three-yard tally. Bass missed the extra point, but the Bills still owned a two-possession lead at 9-0.

But the Chiefs, mirroring their propensity for erasing large deficits during their last Super Bowl run, went on to score on each of their six full possessions, interrupted only by the end of the first half. It began with a tale of redemption for Hardman, who not only got the Chiefs on the board with a three-yard score but also set up Darrel Williams’ touchdown on the next drive with a big gain on the ground. Tyreek Hill proved unstoppable for the Bills, as he put up 172 yards on nine receptions, while Travis Kelce had two scores and 118 yards.

While the game remained close, Buffalo did manage to make their way into Kansas City territory, but questionable went for field goals in the Kansas City red zone in short-yardage situations. To his credit, Bass converted all four of his triple attempts, but they did little to chip away at the Chiefs’ growing lead. After a 27-yard field goal made 24-15 midway through the third, the Chiefs unofficially put the game away when Hill cut loose for a 71-yard gain before Kelce earned a one-yard score to make it 31-15. Chippiness ensued from there one out, with the two teams exchanging unnecessary roughness penalties for the remainder of the contest. Allen managed to find Isaiah McKenzie for a six-yard score before time let out, scoring the Bills’ final touchdown of the year.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: AFC title game is culmination of team efforts

The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs are armed with MVP QBs, but their AFC title trips were earned through team efforts.

Save for the argument over what constitutes a catch, no modern professional football argument gets more heated than that of Most Valuable Player.

In a perfect world, MVP would be awarded to the player who best personifies its middle initial. But the honor becomes a popularity contest, often awarded to the best-trending player on a winning team. The Super Bowl MVP Award named after Pete Rozelle is particularly guilty of this, evidenced by the accolades sent to, say, Ray Lewis in Super Bowl XXXV (four tackles, five pass breakups in a 34-7 win over the Giants). Other times, the award goes to the player with the best highlights or statistics. The NFL has thankfully steered clear of this, but there was something questionable when Alex Rodriguez took home MLB’s title after his Texas Rangers mustered 73 wins in 2003.

It’s a delicate question and one Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes might have to deal with at the virtual NFL Honors on February 6, a day before one of them partakes in Super Bowl LV. Each is expected to be up for the seasonal MVP award, but they’ll first do battle in the AFC Championship Game when Allen’s Buffalo Bills visit Mahomes’ Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday evening (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS).

The NFL, frankly, couldn’t have asked for a better “final four” as an uncanny season nears its end. This could be the first of several showdowns between Allen and Mahomes with a Super Bowl trip on the line, while the other side of the bracket features one of the last opportunities for us to see Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers go at is. Each thrower’s name will undoubtedly be brought up in the MVP conversation. If Mahomes takes home the title, it would be his second league MVP award after first earning for his efforts in the 2018 campaign.

But, frankly, if we are truly defining MVP…neither AFC competitor should take it home.

There’s no doubt that Allen and Mahomes have been integral to their respective sides’ success. The pair constantly battle for supremacy at the top of not only the NFL’s statistical ledgers but the SportsCenter Top 10 as well. There’s no way of knowing if we would have a Bills-Chiefs matchup on Sunday if you removed only Allen and Mahomes from the equation, but let’s just say both Buffalo and Kansas City are undoubtedly glad that they don’t have to figure it out.

But what makes the AFC title game matchup so intriguing is not only the Allen-Mahomes matchup…it’s the fact that the 2021 postseason tournament has left zero doubt that these are the two best teams in the conference. This is not a battle between the Allens and the Patricks; it’s a struggle between the Bills and Chiefs. Look no further than last week’s Divisional playoff action. When Allen and Mahomes were shown to be human…or at least the closest they’ll ever be to human, anyway…their teams rose to the occasion to have their backs.

The cruel winter of Orchard Park got to Allen last week, his trademark deep balls getting lost in the Western New York winds. All in all, Allen did manage to post respectable numbers (23-of-37, 206 yards, and a score), but they were still far from the figures Bills fans have grown accustomed to. Buffalo remains in such a precarious position, one where they could be regarded as Super Bowl contenders one week and also-rans the next by a football-loving public that refuses to look beyond a team’s most recent showing. But the Bills have shown how far they’ve come in Allen’s three seasons at the franchise quarterback helm. Over their first two seasons, the Bills were 6-13 in his first two seasons as a starter when he posted a passer rating under 90. That included a dismal showing in last season’s AFC Wild Card playoffs in Houston, a game in which he failed to lead the Bills into the end zone after scoring through trickery on their first possession.

To his credit, Allen has cut down on such games, turning himself into a bona fide star and franchise man. But Buffalo victories no longer flow solely through him.

The Bills’ Divisional victory over Baltimore earned a massive exclamation point through the efforts of Taron Johnson, one of several day three draft picks making a difference in the Orchard Park football revolution. Jerry Hughes, one of the longest-tenured Bills on the team, has earned multiple sacks in two of his last playoff contests, including two of the Ravens’ mobile throwers Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley last weekend. It was part of a stellar defensive effort reminiscent of the Bills’ 1992 AFC title game efforts, one where the offense struggled to the tune of a single field goal, but earned a 10-7 victory headlined by Carlton Bailey taking a John Elway interception back 11 yards for a majority of the Bills’ scoring.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Allen’s protection has been assisted by the rise of Daryl Williams, who took over for an injured Cody Ford over the final quarter of the season. Williams also recovered a crucial Allen fumble in the Wild Card triumph over Indianapolis. Opposing defensive attention may center on names like Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, but the reserve receiving ranks include a 1,000-yard catcher in John Brown and a master of trickery in Isaiah McKenzie, not to mention rookie Gabriel Davis, who has become one of the most dangerous red zone targets in the league. In their tight end corps, Dawson Knox has joined Davis as a reliable target close to the goal line. Hughes’ partner in longevity, Lee Smith, has been one of the team’s most reliable blockers.

Shocked as the football world may be at the emergence of so many, Buffalo’s depth was of no surprise to head coach Sean McDermott or Diggs, one of the most impactful on-field contributors.

“You’ve got to be able to count on depth,” said head coach Sean McDermott, per team reporter Chris Brown. “You’ve got to have depth in this league, this year in particular, with not only injuries occurring but the virus, knocking people out. So, it’s highly critical.”

“I feel like we’ve got a lot of guys that can play well at the receiver position,” Diggs added in the same report. “A lot of guys can make plays, and not even just at the receiver position. Whether it’s (running back Devin Singletary) out wide or (Dawson) Knox out wide. It’s somebody that you’ve got to account for because guys can make plays on the outside. As far as lining up four wide, it isn’t just one of us out there. There’s a lot of us out there.”

On Sunday, the Bills face a team that has matched their team efforts, albeit having done so on a higher level thus far. Their six-year playoff streak is the longest active endeavor in football, one that began long before Mahomes’ arrival. There’s no denying that Mahomes, acquired through a pick the Bills sent to Kansas City, has brought the Chiefs to the next level, but the Chiefs have proven they’re equally dangerous if he’s unavailable for whatever reason.

When Mahome was forced to leave Kansas City’s Divisional tilt against Cleveland with a head injury, the insertion of Chad Henne could’ve led to certain doom for the Chiefs. Instead, not only did Henne wind up playing an integral role in the victory…in part thanks to head coach Andy Reid’s confidence in him, bringing the theme of a team effort full circle…but he was assisted by reserve rusher Darrel Williams, more than a year after Damien Williams took over Super Bowl LV while Mahomes struggled with the San Francisco defense. The defense also rose up to the occasion, holding Baker Mayfield and an upstart Browns offense to get no further than a 22-17 final.

“The thing I’m proudest about, is the guys persevering through and winning games. You kinda go back and look at the schedule you had and there’s some pretty good football teams that we the opportunity to play against. To be able to get yourself in a position to win each and every week, that’s pretty good, you’re headed in the right direction, at least,” Reid said of team unity on 610 Sports Radio (KCSP-AM) this week. “It’s tough enough to win one game in this league, let alone win 14 of them. I’m proud of them for that, maybe most of all, I’m proud that they’ve taken a humble approach to everything. They haven’t sat there beating their chest and said, “We’re the Super Bowl Champs and you can’t beat us. That’s not the way they’ve gone about it, they’ve not let up an inch on the process of getting ready to play each team.”

One team will emerge victorious on Sunday, advancing to Super Bowl LV. Not one player…but a team.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Three reasons why this isn’t the same team from October

The Kansas City Chiefs topped the Buffalo Bills in one-sided fashion back in October, but a lot has changed in Orchard Park.

Why is the NFL even bothering to play the AFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon? We already saw what a nationally televised matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS) had to offer back in October.

The Monday late afternoon tilt in Orchard Park (wth health protocols moving the game from its original Thursday night slot) wasn’t as close as the 26-17 margin in Kansas City’s advantage indicated. The defending champion Chiefs outgained Buffalo 466-206 and Josh Allen’s box score (14-of-27, 122 yards) was conjured from the sweetest dreams of his detractors. To make things even scarier, the Chiefs’ comfortable victory came with megastar Patrick Mahomes posting relatively pedestrian numbers (225 yards, two scores). Mahomes’ status for Sunday remains in question after he left last week’s Divisional round victory with a head injury.

With their loss, combined with a listless showing in Nashville the week prior, the Bills had apparently missed their chance to prove why they belonged amongst the NFL’s elite. Sure, they were content to win an AFC East featuring the woebegone Jets, declining Patriots, and developing Dolphins, but keys to the AFC penthouse would have to wait, granted only to Kansas City and their guests from Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

But a lot has changed since October. Vaccines to combat the ongoing health crisis were still in the development stages. In the Star Wars galaxy, Grogu was still known as “Baby Yoda” and, as far as we knew, Boba Fett was still in the belly of the Sarlacc.

The Bills, meanwhile, have cleaned themselves up…

 Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Their offense has gotten better at controlling the game

Offensive control goes far beyond the yardage battle, though the BIlls are handling their business in that department. Since putting up only 206 against the Chiefs in October, the Bills broke the 300-yard mark in each of their next 11 games, a streak that ended in the Orchard Park winds of the Divisional playoff victory over Baltimore. In that span, Buffalo eclipsed 400 six times, including a whopping 534 in their playoff-clinching win over Denver.

Perhaps more important, however, is what Buffalo can do in the time of possession affairs. When one leads such a battle, it means their offense is still on the field and that the opponent’s unit…in this case, one featuring Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and other scoring titans…can only watch from the sidelines.

If any franchise knows the value of winning the time of possession column, it’s the Buffalo Bills. Scott Norwood’s memorable miss in Super Bowl XXV could’ve been avoided bad the Bills had held the ball for more than 20 minutes. The New York Giants, reduced to a backup quarterback, methodically milked the clock with a rushing attack headlined by MVP Ottis Anderson. They wound up keeping the ball for over two-thirds of game time (40:33) to secure a 20-19 victory. The Giants kept their offense on the field while Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, and Co. could only helplessly look on.

The modern Bills have appeared to have taken that lesson to heart. Though they’ve lost the battle in each of their postseason pair thus far, odds considerably tilt to their favor when they hold the ball longer. The Bills are 6-0 when they hold the ball for at least 33 minutes, notably keeping it for 41:17 in their Week 1 win over the Jets. In contrast, Buffalo had only 22:15 of offense during their prior excursion against the Chiefs. Winning the TOP struggle has proven effective in neutralizing a Mahomes offense before. Kansas City has lost nine games with Mahomes under center since he took over the starting role in 2018. The Chiefs have lost the time of possession battle in all but one of those games. Included in the negative tally is their overtime defeat to New England in the 2018-19 AFC Championship Game.

(Photo: Getty)

They’ve cracked down on opposing rushing efforts

How did Kansas City manage to look so dominant with Mahomes looking uncharacteristically average? Simple…they’re known as the Kansas City Chiefs, not the Kansas City Mahomes (more on this from a Buffalo standpoint later).

The Chiefs have built their new NFL dominion through a team effort. Though Mahomes has obviously played a role in the Chiefs’ ongoing success, new heroes have surfaced in times of trouble. Sub-Mahomes efforts, or even his medical-induced disappearances, are not immediate causes for on-field panic. Kansas City’s run game has routinely stepped up when Mahomes is held in check. That was true during the early stages of last year’s Super Bowl, as Damien Williams put up 104 rushing yards and the final two touchdowns in the 31-20 victory. When Mahomes had to leave the Divisional proceedings against Cleveland, the unrelated Darrel Williams put up 47 yards on seven carries to help take the pressure and load off backup Chad Henne, ticking precious time off the clock in the process.

In the first Buffalo meeting, it was first-round rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire who rose up with 161 yards on the ground, while Darrel Williams put in a second-half touchdown that gave the Chiefs a two-possession lead. If Mahomes plays but isn’t at 100 percent on Sunday in Missouri, there’d be little surprise in

But the Bills defense has cracked down since Edwards-Helaire’s Western New York stampede. While it’s still not at a level they’re truly satisfied with the betterment has nonetheless played a role in their success. Only two rushers (Damien Harris and Kenyan Drake) have gotten to the century mark since Edwards-Helarie’s infantile career day at 102 and 100 respectively. They additionally held another stud rookie rusher, Jonathan Taylor, to under four yards a carry during their Wild Card victory over Indianapolis (21 carries, 78 yards). Buffalo later held Baltimore’s top-ranked run game in check in the Divisional round, allowing no rushers greater than 15 yards from Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, and Lamar Jackson.

“We said, OK, we’re going to dare them to stay with the run game, and lo and behold, they stayed with it, and had a lot of success running the football,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of the October game, per Jourdon LaBarber of BuffaloBills.com. “You know, we learned a lot from that ballgame, hopefully some lessons that will help us going forward, but that was the strategy going into game. We’ll have to find a balance, do a better job against the run than we did in that first encounter.”

 Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

They’ve improved far beyond Josh Allen

In a cruelly ironic twist, would an MVP Award for Josh Allen actually hurt the Bills?

In a perfect world, distribution of Most Valuable Player awards would truly live up to its definition. But it too often simply goes to the best players on the best team or relies solely on stats. Magnificent as Mahomes has been, Kansas City has shown that they’re more than capable of competing when a backup quarterback like Henne or Matt Moore has to take the reins.

Since his drafting in 2018, the Bills fortunes have been perceived as rising and falling through the play of Allen. That’s ridiculously unfair in a sport that relies so heavily on team antics, but those who believe in such philosophies had evidence through Allen’s shortcomings. Over his first two seasons, Buffalo posted a 6-13 record when Allen posted a passer rating of 90 worse. That tally included his 69.5 posting in the Bills’ Wild Card defeat in Houston last year.

Granted, Allen has improved himself to the point where he’s not posting these kinds of numbers on a regular basis. Additionally, his jaw-dropping highlight reels often speak for themselves. But, as mentioned above, the 2020 version of Allen has gotten by with a little help from his friends. Buffalo’s record now stands at a much more tolerable 4-3 when Allen’s passer rating is at that precipice. A perfect example came last week against Baltimore in the Divisional tilt. By typical 2020-21 standards, the game was a struggle for the Bills offense, which put up only 220 yards and 17 first downs.

The defense, however, had Allen’s back, upping the pressure on Jackson and providing the most crucial score through Taron Johnson’s 101-yard interception return for a touchdown. They likewise added four sacks, including two from Jerry Hughes, his second multi-sack game in his last three postseason contests. Momentum-shifting turnovers have been nothing new in Buffalo. Since picking up only one in the Kansas City loss, the Bills have earned multiple turnovers in six games.

As for blocking, Allen’s pocket has been relatively clean, having been sacked four times in the two playoff showings. When the pressure has raised a few octaves, to the tune of a pair of fumbles that could’ve shifted the courses of those games, but Darryl Williams and Dion Dawkins each came up big with recoveries.

In short, since their pair of defeats…the Bills could well have been holding a 12-game winning streak if not for Kyler Murray’s miracle…the Bills are providing a whole new meaning to “All-22”. Time will tell if it’ll be enough to topple the budding dynasty in Kansas City. But it won’t come through relying solely on the prescience of Allen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

3 reasons why the Buffalo Bills are (and aren’t) the team to beat in the AFC

The Buffalo Bills are firing on all cylinders as the NFL playoffs get underway. But does the AFC still belong to the Chiefs? ESM investigates.

Are you ready to party like it’s 1994? For once, someone other than New York Rangers fans are willing to do so in the Empire State.

Five months before Mark Messier accepted the Stanley Cup at Madison Square Garden, the Buffalo Bills battled the Kansas City Chiefs for AFC supremacy in January’s conference title game at what-was-then-known-as Rich Stadium. Through a dominant effort from Thurman Thomas (186 rushing yards and three scores), Buffalo rolled to a 30-13 victory that clinched their fourth consecutive Super Bowl berth.

27 years later, the two teams appear to be on a collision course toward a rematch in the game’s 2021 edition. Kansas City (14-2) and Buffalo (13-3) are the top two seeds in the first edition of the revamped AFC playoffs. Fulfilling the star-crossed prophecies of Western New York sports, Buffalo secure the second overall seed…in the first year that the conference runner-up is not entitled to a bye week (or at least first since the adjusted 1982 playoffs due to a players’ strike). The lone automatic advancement goes to the defending champion Chiefs, while the Bills take on the first extra wild-card, the seventh-seeded Indianapolis Colts, in the official postseason opener on Saturday afternoon (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Buffalo missed out on a first-round bye, but, on the brighter side, the earliest they would face the Chiefs is the potential conference title game.

So should the Bills, slowly becoming America’s adoptive squad, be the favorite as the playoffs get underway? ESM investigates why…and why not:

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Why: They’re taking care of business

If not for Kyler Murray’s miracle in Glendale back in November, the Bills may have entered the playoffs on a 10-game winning streak…with their last loss coming to Kansas City. Since that heartbreaker in the desert and the ensuing week off, Buffalo has won six in a row, each victory coming by no less than 10 points. They and the Green Bay Packers enter the postseason with the longest active winning streak in the NFL (though Kansas City would probably have a streak of 11 in a row if they hadn’t rested their starters in a Sunday loss to Los Angeles).

The Bills are just winning games…they’re dominating them. Their point differential of 119 over the past six weeks is by far the best in football in that span (fellow AFC participant Baltimore is in second at 92) and the Bills’ offense is averaging just under 430 yards per game (also best in that timeframe). Team records are falling on both the individual (through Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs) and team level. For example, last week’s 56-26 victory a Miami Dolphins team that had much to play for allowed the Bills to set a personal-best for most points scored in a single season (501).

It’s not like the Bills are bullying AFC slouches, either. In addition to eliminating Miami, Buffalo’s winning streak featured a healthy Sunday night win over Pittsburgh. Save for the Arizona nightmare, they won every leg of their interconference slate, which included wins over the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks (who face off in the NFC wild-card match immediately after the Bills-Colts game). If this were the College Football Playoff, we’d likely see the Bills swiping one of the top four spots..probably to play Alabama.

Buffalo’s domination contrasts the relatively exciting football Kansas City has played. Most of the Chiefs’ contributors from their Super Bowl run are back, headlined by the lethal duo of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce. But each of the team’s past seven victories has come by only a single possession. The last game featuring Kansas City starters was a sloppy 17-14 slugfest against the eliminated Atlanta Falcons, a game that avoided overtime because of a rare Younghoe Koo miss. Their top unit has another week to get things rolling as they simmer in a first-round bye.

Why Not: They have little playoff experience

The Bills have broken countless streaks of futility this season. One, however, looms large: a postseason win drought dating back to December 1995, when they topped Miami in the Wild Card round. The dry spell nearly ended in Houston last season, but victory slipped through their grasp in overtime. For most of the players on this team, their knowledge of January football stems from either the heartbreaking visit to Buffalo or the 10-3 Wild Card slugfest in Jacksonville back in 2018. The former loss still looms large on the Bills’ psyche as they prepare to attempt to finally get over the hump against the Colts.

“It still lingers a little bit, just knowing the situation of the game, knowing what I could’ve done differently, reads I could’ve changed. If I could change it, obviously would, but I can’t, and I’m glad for the lessons I learned throughout that game and throughout the three years I’ve been playing so far,” quarterback Josh Allen said to Mary Margaret Johnson of WIVB. “Without failure, you wouldn’t know success. We’ve got to find ways to put our best foot forward and try to get a victory.”

Kansas City, on the other hand, is the only team in the league that has won playoff games in consecutive seasons, reaching the AFC title game before their Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco last season. According to Mahomes, the former playoff trip played a vital role in his eventual Vince Lombardi Trophy hoist. In his first full year as a starter, the Chiefs topped Indianapolis in the Divisional round before bowing out in overtime to the eventual champions from New England in the AFC title game.

Mahomes mentioned just how important the prior experience was when gearing up for the run to Super Bowl LIV last season.

“For me, I think the only thing that is really different is having the experience,” Mahomes said prior to the AFC Divisional round against Houston, per Charles Goldman of Chiefs Wire. “Being able to play in games like this at Arrowhead and being able to win one and lose one. I understand that every single play counts, how much every single rep in practice counts, and how you have to take advantage of every single opportunity that you get.”

Mahomes’ quick adaptation from playoff heartbreak led to a Super Bowl title. Buffalo will have to channel similar energy if they’re hoping to end this season on the right note.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Why: Their defense is finding a dominant stride

Any battle between the Bills and Chiefs would likely require a backup scoreboard on standby at Arrowhead Stadium. Buffalo (501) and Kansas City (473) are good for first and third respectively in the AFC in scoring, sandwiching Tennessee. The Chiefs top the NFL at just over 415 yards a game, with Buffalo the first team behind them at 396.

But that’s where the Bills’ defense can step in. The NFL may be a league that worships an offensive deity known as “fantasy football”, but several important games over the past few seasons (i.e. Super Bowl LIII) have proven that defense still has its place in modern professional football. Buffalo’s defense is getting hot at the perfect time. Not only did they hold three consecutive opponents under 300 yards in December…almost an impossibility in today’s offense-happy NFL..they’ve been forcing turnovers as well. The Bills have forced at least one turnover in all but one of their past 11 games, the rare exception being their most recent visit to New England, when they allowed only 201 yards of offense in a 38-9 win. In their elimination victory over the Dolphins, they earned four takeaways, headlined by Josh Norman’s interception return for a touchdown.

In a report from team writer Jordan LaBarber, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds described the Bills’ defensive endeavors as “fun” after they dismantled fellow division champion Pittsburgh on national television.

“The biggest thing is starting fast, playing physical, playing free, and guys just having fun. I think, if I had to say the number one thing, it’s having fun. If you have fun, a lot of those things kind of take care of itself,” Edmunds said. “I honestly take my hat off just to the whole, you know, the team, just the people I have around me. I can’t do it all by myself. I think just us as a team, we are having fun. And any time you have fun, I think those plays just kind of show up.”

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Why Not: They’re hurting

For most of the season, the Bills dodged the 2020 demons brought on by COVID-19 and injuries. Reserve tight end and goal line target Tyler Kroft, for example, was placed on the reserve list twice but was activated each time without further incident. But the Bills have some major question marks when it comes to their receiving corps as they enter Saturday’s game in Indianapolis.

Diggs would be the scariest absence, as he has missed out on practice on Wednesday due to oblique issues. The NFL’s leading receiver (127 receptions, 1535 yards, both Bills records) has indicated that he’ll be ready to go for the Colts’ visit, but head coach Sean McDermott was more cautious. Diggs did partake in Thursday’s preparation at Bills Stadium, as did Cole Beasley, per photos from Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. The slot receiver Beasley set new career-bests this season (82 receptions, 967 yards) but missed the Week 17 contest with a knee injury. Thursday’s proceedings were his first form of football action since the week prior in New England. Isaiah McKenzie, fresh off a career-game against the Dolphins (three touchdowns, including a punt return), has also been limited all week.

Though Bills fans may exhale about Diggs’ confidence to play this week, the receiver noted how well the Buffalo depth compliments each other. Fourth-round rookie Gabriel Davis has tallied seven scores this season while John Brown made his return in the regular season finale after missing the past five games with a knee and ankle issue.

“Having that depth, having guys, in this playoff run, you don’t what’s going to happen,” Diggs said in a report from Parrino. “Guys can get hurt, (with) COVID and all the stuff that’s going on. Having depth doesn’t hurt you. It kind of puts you in space where that next man up is really, really real. I say more so give all the credit being able to find the open man, deliver a strike and being able to have success offensively with the guys you haven’t typically had a lot of reps with.”

Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Why: They have Josh Allen

There’s little doubt about Allen’s ability at this point. He has silenced pretty much any doubters with an MVP-worth season that has yielded 46 touchdowns through the air (37), ground (8), a trick play from Brown (1). To put that number in perspective, punter Corey Bojorquez has been called upon only 37 times.

But the feel-good stories of the NFL, particularly those found under center, can quickly be neutralized by a lack of playoff success. For example, it took one botched field goal for Tony Romo to be eternally labeled as a fourth-quarter choker (though his stats often proved otherwise). Jared Goff’s reputation with the Rams hasn’t been the same since a brutal day in the aforementioned Super Bowl against the Patriots. Conquering the postseason is the last hurdle Allen has to clear before officially cementing his superstar status.

Allen escaped a good share of the blame for the heartbreak in Houston, even though he mustered only one receiving touchdown (another toss from Brown) and he had a fumble at the onset of the fourth quarter that led to a Texans field goal. But, with more postseason futility, the inevitable, if not unjust, question of “how many playoff wins does he have?” is inevitably going to come up.

But, going into the postseason, Allen isn’t worried about his personal case. His perspective is entirely team-focused.

“The only thing when I’m on the field is my fear of letting my teammates down,” Allen said to LaBarber. “As quarterback of the team, your job is to move the ball and to score points. So, when we’re not scoring points, that’s my biggest fear. It’s putting our defense in a bind if we’re not moving the chains on third down, again, that puts us behind the eight ball and we’ve got to punt the ball away. That’s what drives me. That’s what motivates me. I fear letting the guys who drafted me, this front office, and this organization, down.”

Why Not: They don’t have Patrick Mahomes…and Travis Kelce…and Andy Reid…and…

October gave us a potential preview of this matchup, with Kansas City prevailing in a somewhat sloppy 26-17 triumph. Each side’s discombobulation could potentially be attributed to the fact it was a Thursday nighter shifted to a Monday late afternoon due to COVID-19 issues with the Bills’ prior opponent in Nashville. But the Bills weren’t looking for excuses.

“We weren’t good enough. I was not good enough,” said Allen, held to a season-low 122 yards, to LaBarber and Dante Lasting. “I got to do a better job. It’s plain and simple. I didn’t play very good tonight. I know that, understand that. This team can’t afford to have me play poorly. Early on, just not being as accurate with the ball as I should have been, making the right reads, making the right throws.”

There is, technically, no shame in losing to Kansas City. Last season’s Super Bowl run was a firm statement that they didn’t save the AFC from New England monopoly…they simply declared the conference was under new management. The Chiefs were not only set up for short-term success but packed things up for the long-term, locking Mahomes to his infamous half-billion-dollar deal that somehow seems like too little. Super Bowl hero Damien Williams (understandably) opted out of the 2020 proceedings and the Chiefs didn’t lose a step, sustained by Mahomes’ passing antics to weapons like Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. So there’s little shame in colliding with a team of destiny and coming out on the wrong end.

But the Bills know that success in the NFL is far too fleeting to rely on the future. That Jacksonville team that beat them in 2018 went to the AFC title game and seem destined for a return trip. The Jaguars are now choosing first in the 2021 NFL Draft this spring.

It’s going to be hard to top Kansas City, but first thing’s first…beating the Colts on Saturday.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that decided the Buffalo Bills’ Monday fate vs. Kansas City

An ugly second half against the defending champions doomed the Buffalo Bills on a rainy night in Orchard Park.

The Buffalo Bills managed to keep Patrick Mahomes mostly in check on a rainy Monday night, but it still wasn’t enough to take down the defending Super Bowl champions.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire put up an infantile career-best 161 rushing yards, pacing the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense on a cold overcast night at Bills Stadium en route to a 26-17 victory in Monday night’s showdown between AFC divisional leaders. Mahomes did contribute to the Kansas City (5-1) cause with two touchdown passes, each to Travis Kelce.

Buffalo (4-2) has now lost consecutive regular season games while at full strength for the first time since 2018 (not counting the season-ending losses at the end of last season, when the Bills played mostly backups in their unsuccessful Week 17 game against the New York Jets).

ESM looks back on the four plays, one from each quarter, that determined Buffalo’s fate on Monday night…

1st Quarter: Matt Milanooooo

If this is the way the Bills’ defense looks without Matt Milano, it might be time to give the veteran linebacker some MVP consideration in absentia.

The Bills knew it would be a tall task dealing with Kelce with or without Milano, but his prescience might’ve at least made things more difficult in the red zone. His physicality and coverage prowess were particularly missed on the Bills’ second defensive drive when Kelce outworked Tremaine Edmunds (whose still working off the effects of a shoulder injury) to score the Chiefs’ first touchdown of the game. It echoed the success Tennessee was able to earn from the tight end spot on Tuesday, as Kelce was able to match Jonnu Smith’s two touchdowns scored in Nashville.

2nd Quarter: Walk the Klein

Kelce had three receptions in the first half, each of them playing a major role in the game’s timeline. He scored another touchdown in the second quarter (one that wound up giving Kansas City the lead permanently) and seemed poised for a chance to get another when the Chiefs got the ball back with just a minute to go and all their timeouts on the board. Stationed at the Kansas City 32, Kelce took a Mahomes pass to just about midfield, where he was stripped of the ball by A.J. Klein. Josh Norman was able to pounce on it, giving Buffalo a chance to try a potential tying field before the halftime gun.

While Tyler Bass missed the 52-yard attempt, the play was part of a strong stretch for the Buffalo defense. Not only did the turnover keep things at three points going into the locker room, but they also forced another Kansas City punt on their next drive. What could’ve been a 23-10 deficit remained stagnant at 13-10. For a team facing the mighty defending champions’ high-octane offense on short rest, that’s one of several moral victories gained against a brutal opponent.

3rd Quarter: Run All Night

With 11:22 to go in the second quarter, the Bills took a 10-7 lead through a 13-play, 75-yard masterpiece that was capped off by a Stefon Diggs touchdown grab. It was a drive that took 6:43 off the game clock…nearly seven minutes without Mahomes, Kelce, Edwards-Helaire, etc. on the field.

But over their next three possessions, Buffalo ran just 14 plays, tallying only 53 yards, and 5:18 on the time of possession clock. Kansas City noticed, taking advantage by showcasing their run game. In addition to Edwards-Helaire’s breakout effort, Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson united for 43 yards in relief. Williams dealt a crushing blow to a tired Buffalo defense, busting loose for a 13-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-one.

Each of Kansas City’s eight regular-season losses in the Mahomes era has come in games where they lost the time of possession battle. Buffalo failed to fulfill that requirement on Monday, as the offense was on the field for only 22:15.

4th Quarter: One-Hit Blunder

Penalties have been a bit of an issue (6.6 per game) for the Bills despite their success in the early going. They did manage to play a mostly clean game with only four flags on Monday, including none in the first half.

However, one of them was an unforced error of drastic proportions, a show of frustration that was almost…Jets-ian in nature.

With the Bills down 20-10, Poyer was able to briefly neutralize Edwards-Helaire by stopping him on a screen pass for a loss of two. Had Poyer let go once Edwards-Helaire was forced out of bounds, the Chiefs would’ve faced a third down with seven to go at circa midfield. Alas, Poyer forced Edwards-Helaire out of bounds and slammed him to the ground, drawing a 15-yard penalty and a first down. Kansas City would go on to earn a Harrison Butker field goal, more or less settling things at a two-possession game.

Penalties are going to be an issue if the Bills have any hopes of recovering and moving forward. Their currently per game tally is eighth-worst in football.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Which New York Jets have played out Patrick Mahomes’ contract?

If all goes according to plan, Patrick Mahomes will be in Kansas City for the next 12 years. How many New York Jets have lasted that long?

Earlier this week, Patrick Mahomes earned himself a mighty surplus of ketchup funds.

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback made financial history on Monday, inking a 10-year contract extension with the potential to reach $503 million. It’s the first half-billion-dollar deal in American potential sports history.

Save for their scheduled matchup this November, the New York Jets perhaps have little to worry about when it comes to writing such a check. They’re a rebuilding squad and are still searching for an identity as they enter a new decade of football. It’s certainly enticing for Kansas City fans to envision at least a dozen more seasons of Mahomes antics under center (counting the two left on his original rookie deal), one can certainly wonder if Mahomes play the contract out to its fullest. A dozen more seasons equates to a whopping total of 192 regular season games.

Just how hard is it to reach that plateau? ESM looks back on the rare Jets who managed to put up that number in a green uniform…

K Pat Leahy (250 games)

Leahy didn’t even play college football, have starred on the soccer pitch at Saint Louis University (even earning All-American honors as a Billiken). After two training camp stints with the local Cardinals, he signed on with the Jets after Bobby Howling’s 1974 injury and didn’t look back for nearly 18 years. By the time he retired in 1992 (only departing due to a sciatic nerve condition), Leahy owned pretty much every meaningful scoring and kicking record in the Jets’ history books. He remains the all-time points leader in Jets history at 1,470, which is currently good for 26th in NFL history (fifth among players who spent their entire career with one team).

(Photo by Fred Roe/Getty Images)

G Randy Rasmussen (207 games)

As the last player to retire from the Jets’ legendary 1968 squad, Rasmussen is the last Jets Super Bowl champion to partake in an NFL game. Save for an eight-game stretch in his penultimate season, Rasmussen was incredibly durable during his run, missing just three games outside of that outlier campaign in 1980. Rasmussen even earned a touchdown during his NFL career, recovering a fumble in the end zone during a 1972 loss to Miami at Shea Stadium.

LB Kyle Clifton (204 games)

No one in New York has earned more takedowns than Clifton, who put up 1,468 solo stops in his NFL career. He led the league in tackles on three occasions ranks 10th in NFL history in the combined variety (1,484). Current free agent Antoine Bethea is the closest active player to knocking him out of the spot (1,333).

LB Mo Lewis (200 games)

Lewis is perhaps best known for his indirect role in NFL history, as he’s the one whose tackle of Drew Bledsoe gave way to Tom Brady in 2001. But his mark on Jets and the NFL, in general, goes far beyond that single play. Along with Clifton, Lewis is one of two Jets with at least 1,000 tackles (1,232) and he also reached the Pro Bowl three times. Lewis was named to the Jets’ 40th anniversary squad, as well as the first 1998 All-Pro team en route to the Jets’ AFC Championship Game appearance.

T Winston Hill (195 games)

The late Hill’s legendary career finally got the ending it rightfully deserved in January, as the Super Bowl starter was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Joe Namath’s entire career saw Hill protect his blindside, as the pair event spent one non-Jets season as members of the Los Angeles Rams. Winston Hill’s Ribs & Stuff, a barbecue restaurant Hill formed decades after his retirement, continues to operate in Littleton, Colorado.

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

G/T Dan Alexander (192 games)

Alexander was drafted in the eighth round of the 1977 draft out of LSU and carved out a 13-year career in New York. He was, in fact, drafted as a defensive lineman but was switched to the other side of the ball in the midst of his first training camp. Alexander also partook in seven playoff games and didn’t miss a game until his 11th year on the job.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: What Does The Patrick Mahomes Extension Mean For The Giants?

As everyone knows by now, the Kansas City Chiefs locked up their Super Bowl winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the largest professional sports contract in history on Monday. Mahomes is set to make a half billion, after reaching a deal that exceeds the 12 year contract that MLB star Mike Trout signed with the Angels. Whenever a contract this large is signed, it has effects for teams other than the one who signed it. That includes the New York Giants.

The Giants have their own young quarterback in Daniel Jones, after all. Market prices for different positions are usually set by recent big contracts at said positions, and quarterback is no exception. Therefore, it’s reasonable to argue that Jones’ next contract may just be affected by the one that Mahomes signed – assuming Jones is considered worthy of high tier quarterback pay once it comes time to renew his contract.

With Mahomes securing the largest pro sports contract ever while playing at quarterback, it looks like the market is favorable to QBs right now. Others around the league will point to this deal to justify getting paid more on their own new contracts.

If the next two seasons make Jones a star for the Giants and not just a stepping stone to another post-Eli Manning quarterback, the team can expect to pay more at the negotiating table. Jones is currently in the second year of his rookie contract, however, so there’s some time before that will happen. He still has two more years after this one and an option for another year.

However, with the market price for top quarterbacks increasing, the Giants have a limited window before they’ll have to pay up to keep Jones, if he does establish himself as a star worthy of being paid like the other top players in the league.

This leaves the Giants with a window of about two to three years to get it together and become a winning team again before they end up with a tough cap situation due to signing Jones to a new contract. They’ll certainly have to make concessions when that time comes and give up on chasing other players that could help the team, for cap reasons.

Especially if the Mahomes contract leads to increases in quarterback prices around the league, just as Christian McCaffrey’s new contract is expected to impact high level running back contracts.

But what state will the Giants be in by the time Jones is wrapping up his rookie deal? Will they be a playoff threat that can afford to enter a bad cap situation after taking advantage of their rebuilding years to stock up on talent? Or will they be in the same spot they are now, in a transition phase that never seems to turn into actual success?

That depends on how things go under a new regime led by Joe Judge, and it could be the difference between the Giants ending up as a regular playoff team and ending up stuck in a cycle of rebuilding.

BREAKING NEWS: Patrick Mahomes the first half billion player with 10-year extension

The reigning Super Bowl MVP and former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes is recieving an NFL record-long 10 YEAR EXTENSION per Adam Schefter, being the largest North American contract ever.

Rumors about an extension began to swirl after Patrick Mahomes won the Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP after winning the 2018 MVP in the season before. The two time Pro-Bowler has 76 TDs to 18 INTs in his first 31 starts while completing 65.9% of his passes and throwing for 9412 yards. He has been the undisputed best QB in the NFL since 2018 and has been one of the NFL’s best playoff QBs in the game right now.

In the postseason Patrick Mahomes has a 62.5 completion percentage and 13 TDs to 2 INTs and a 4-1 record in 5 postseason starts. Mahomes also has 1,474 yards to go alongside with it.

Mahomes’ will set the record not only for the biggest contract in the NFL but for the entirety of North American sports at 10 years and $450 MILLION. I think it’s well deserved for the best QB and player in the NFL, and it’s amazing that he is now in possession of the largest North American sports contract.

Could the New York Giants trade Eli Manning to the Kansas City Chiefs?

New York Giants quarterback, Eli Manning.

With Kansas City Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes going down with a dislocated patella (knee cap) on Thursday night, the potential for trade has opened up, and New York Giants veteran passer Eli Manning could be included.

Can the New York Giants even trade Eli Manning?

Let me start by saying; there’s about a 1% chance Manning gets traded, considering his no-trade clause and desire to stay in New York for the remainder of his career. Uprooting his family to move to a city in the mid-west makes little sense, especially when his kids are in school and established.

However, Manning heading to the Chiefs for the remainder of the season doesn’t sound all too unrealistic. There are a few significant road-blocks in a potential deal, aside from his no-trade clause. His cap-hit, being $11.5 million at this point, would have to be split with the Chiefs, so they would take on a huge hit to sign a quarterback that might not even be as good as Matt Moore, their current backup.

From Darryl Slater of NJ.com:

Manning’s 2019 salary is $11.5 million, and the Chiefs would have to pay the prorated amount of that, depending on when they traded for him. Since there are 10 weeks left in the regular season after this week, the Chiefs would owe Manning 58.8 percent of his salary (10/17th) — or $6.76 million.

 

And they’d have to give up something for him, obviously. Likely a mid-round draft pick. The Giants, meanwhile, might as well consider getting something for Manning, who is done with the organization after this season anyway.

 

Manning, for all his flaws, would be a clear upgrade from the Chiefs’ current No. 2 quarterback, Matt Moore.

However, if the Chiefs did express interest in Manning, what would be his incentive to make a move? For the Giants, they would love to send Eli off in the best way possible, but if he’s keen on continuing to play, taking his talents to a contending team could be well worth the move. The Giants have already moved on to Daniel Jones, but that’s no indication of disrespect, as they have stuck by Manning through far worse situations.

The reality is, Big Blue has been good to Manning, despite providing him with terrible talent over the last few seasons. He has won two glorious Super Bowls and lifted the franchise in the face of adversity. He’s a staple for every Giants fan over the age of 20, and keeping him as a symbol of their past success is necessary. So, while the idea of trading Manning and dumping his massive contract on to Kansas City might sound appealing, his deal ends after 2019 regardless, and this will likely be his final season in Blue.

New York Giants: How The Giants Could Construct The Kansas City Model

The New York Giants drafted

The New York Giants are officially in the market for a quarterback. Both general manager Dave Gettleman and co-owner John Mara have admitted that the team will be looking for a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft.

This has been speculated for quite some time now. Eli Manning is 38 years old and heading into his 6th season. Statistically, Manning has been solid in recent years. However, no one can play forever.

As head coach Pat Shurmur said, Eli is closer to 40 than he is to 20. The clock has officially begun ticking; the Giants need to find the next franchise quarterback.

Eli Manning will be around in 2019. The Giants already paid him his roster bonus and assured the press that he is the starting quarterback in 2019. However, Dave Gettleman has also floated around the idea of keeping Eli on the team in order to mentor a rookie quarterback. Dave Gettleman calls this the “Kansas City Model.”

What Is The Kansas City Model?

When Dave Gettleman uses the phrase “Kansas City Model,” he is referring to how the Kansas City Chiefs groomed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to success in his second season. The Chiefs had Alex Smith in 2017, who was a solid starting quarterback. Despite this, the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Chiefs then went on with Alex Smith as the starting quarterback during the 2017 NFL season. In 2018, the Chiefs decided it was time to let “Showtime” Patrick Mahomes take over. They traded away Alex Smith and committed to Patrick Mahomes as the full-time starting quarterback. Mahomes went on to have a historic 2018 season.

In 2018, Patrick Mahomes was phenomenal. Mahomes brought the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game and won NFL MVP. Patrick’s stats were insane in 2018. He threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions in his first season as a starter. With production like this, it is easy to see why Dave Gettleman is so fond of the “Kansas City Model.”

Which Quarterbacks Fit The Kansas City Model?

The 2019 NFL Draft has 4 quarterback prospects who could potentially be drafted in the 1st round. The Giants will need to decide if they want to go through with the “Kansas City Model,” then figure out which quarterback prospect is the best fit.

A quarterback who is not fit for the “Kansas City Model” is Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray. Murray is going to start from day one in the NFL. He is a special talent whose only true flaw is his small size.

Despite this, Murray is a talented, dual-threat quarterback who will have an offense completely built around him due to his special running and passing abilities. This is why he will need to start. With Murray, there is no time to waste. The offense will be built around him, so it would be a waste of time to have another quarterback play in Murray’s personalized offense.

Dwayne Haskins is the quarterback most analysts think the Giants will end up with after the 2019 NFL Draft. Haskins had an impressive junior season at Ohio State University. He was extremely efficient, throwing for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions in his only season as a starter.

Since Haskins only played one year as a starter in college, he would benefit from a year of learning in the NFL. Dwayne Haskins has also publicly said he would love the opportunity to learn behind Manning. Haskins grew up a Giants fan and has a lot of respect for the franchise legend, Eli Manning.

Another quarterback who could fit the “Kansas City Model” is Daniel Jones. Daniel played 3 seasons as a starter at Duke. However, he still has a lot of room to grow as a quarterback. Jones has been linked to the recently because of his connection to Eli Manning.

Jones and Manning had the same head coach in college, David Cutcliffe. Jones also knows Manning personally from workouts on Duke’s campus. Daniel Jones is also open to sitting and learning for a year behind Eli.

Daniel Jones threw 22 touchdown passes in 2018 with 9 interceptions and only 2,674 yards. He has the ideal body type for an NFL quarterback and is a smart young man. However, his lack of elite production and accuracy at the collegiate level are the reasons Jones is looked at as a project quarterback. If he is groomed properly, Daniel Jones could be the next Eli Manning.