For the second time since the two-minute warning, the Bills thought they had the game won.
Josh Allen had just hit wide receiver Gabriel Davis for his fourth touchdown of the game with 13 seconds left to go, giving the Bills a 36-33 lead. With barely enough time for two plays to get into field goal range, there was no way the Chiefs had a chance to tie the game.
Wrong. Not when you’re up against Patrick Mahomes. And perhaps, more importantly, not when you play 13 seconds of defense the way the Bills did.
It started with the Bills’ decision to kick the ball through the end zone, instead of a squib kick that could have forced the Chiefs into wasting valuable time on a retiurn.
Then in the span of 10 seconds, Mahomes completed back-to-back 19 and 25-yard passes to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, respectively, to get the Chiefs into range to kick a 49-yard field goal. Harrison Butker hit the kick to send the game to overtime, Kansas City won the coin toss, and Mahomes marched down the field once again to throw the winning touchdown to Kelce. Allen and the Bills were sent home without being able to touch the ball again.
It’d be easy to dismiss those crucial 13 seconds as Mahomes being Mahomes, but Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier should share plenty of the blame. On the first of the two snaps, Buffalo had four men at the line of scrimmage – and the rest of the defense deep, all beyond the first down line and with two safeties 30 yards deep.
Perhaps it was to protect the end zone, but the Chiefs possess one of the best after-the-catch receivers in the NFL in Hill, who Mahomes flicked it to five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. With plenty of space to run, Hill turned it into a 19-yard gain.
On the next play, Frazier moved the linebackers up a few yards. But after the snap, they dropped into a soft zone, losing track of Kelce – who instantly found a hole in it. He broke one tackle and got his team into field goal range before the Bills could blink.
The Bills had the No. 1 defense in the league throughout the regular season but crumbled in the biggest of spots. Not only were the formations baffling, but when you play the Chiefs, your job is to keep track of Hill and Kelce. To let them get as open as they did in the most crucial moment of the game is inexcusable.
Many have blamed the NFL’s unfair overtime rules for the loss, as Allen didn’t get a chance to match Mahomes’ overtime touchdown, but all they had to do was keep the Chiefs out of field goal range to win – and they failed.
Frazier is getting interviews in this offseason’s head coaching cycle, but he certainly didn’t help his case in the final seconds of Sunday’s thriller.
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