Here are five things we learned from the game:
1. Somehow… Patrick Mahomes found the anchor — and held onto it
Following a few weeks in which the Chiefs’ quarterback fell back into old habits — drifting further and further behind his pass protection, making it harder and harder for them to do their jobs — Mahomes found a way to stay within the pocket.
Was it because the Chiefs decided to put Austin Reiter on the sidelines, instead starting veteran center Daniel Kilgore? Was it because right tackle Mitchell Schwartz left the game after aggravating his back injury in the first quarter, forcing the Chiefs to move Mike Remmers — where he had been holding down the fort in place of the injured Kelechi Osemele at left guard — to right tackle, which put second-year interior offensive lineman Nick Allegretti on the field at left guard? (Yeah… it was complicated).
You could argue that all of those things made a difference in the play of the offensive line — but it was also true that right from the Chiefs’ opening snap, Mahomes generally stayed where he belonged.
The changes paid off. By the time the Chiefs had scored their first touchdown — in cold, rainy weather — Mahomes was 5 of 7 for 52 yards and a touchdown. Mahomes’ passer rating was 132.1.
2. Somehow… the Chiefs’ running game worked
By the end of the first half, the Chiefs had rushed for 7.8 yards per attempt (Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 94 yards on 10 carries) behind their piecemeal offensive line. By then, the Chiefs had only managed to get themselves out to a 13-10 lead. But in the third quarter, the Chiefs put together a 11-play, seven-minute drive with seven designed runs — including three carries from Darwin Thompson that gained 16 yards — that put them at fourth-and-inches from the Buffalo 13-yard line.
No problem. Darrel Williams went to the left, then bounced outside to run 13 yards to the end zone, putting the Chiefs ahead 20-10.
By the end of the game, the Chiefs had run for 245 yards — more in one game than any Andy Reid Chiefs team had ever gained — and more than all but four Philadelphia Eagles games during his 14 years there.
Was it the intended (and unintended) changes to the offensive line? Or did the offensive linemen and running backs have a meeting, voting to show the world that the Chiefs don’t need Le’Veon Bell?
If the Chiefs offensive line continues to play like this — and granted, that’s a big if — they won’t need Bell. But as you know, the Chiefs do have him. I think you can do the math on that. Certainly, everyone else in the league is making that calculation.
3. Somehow… the Chiefs defense stood up against a really good quarterback
Unlike most Chiefs fans, the Chiefs themselves probably knew that Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was having a really good season before he came to Kansas City a week ago. Just the same, it didn’t look like the Chiefs knew it. Carr simply embarrassed the Chiefs’ pass defense.
But against a quarterback having an even better year, the defense did its job in Buffalo, holding Josh Allen to 14 completions on 27 attempts for just 122 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. That’s a passer rating of just 73.4 for a quarterback who came into the game with a rating of 113.0 — fourth-best in the NFL.
This was also in spite of the Bills getting a few calls that went their way early in the game. But even at halftime, Allen’s rating was just 66.7. The Chiefs never managed a sack against Allen — but they did keep him under pressure, notching five quarterback hits. The secondary — and the rain, which seemed to rattle Allen more than it did Mahomes — did the rest.
4. Somehow… the Chiefs stifled the run
Nobody is going to claim the Bills’ rushing attack is among the best in the league. In fact, the Chiefs held the Bills to almost exactly their season average on the ground: 3.7 yards per attempt.
But we’ll all take that — because the Chiefs didn’t give up 150 or 200 yards in rushing to a team that typically struggles to gain 100. This time, it was the Chiefs’ turn to grind out the late-game drives on the ground to protect their lead — which was especially important since Harrison Butker had missed another extra point attempt (what’s the deal with that?), which made the end-of-game scoring scenarios a little dicey. But when it counted in the fourth quarter, Butker did what he always does whenever it isn’t an extra point: he nailed a 30-yard field goal to put the game away.
5. Somehow… the Chiefs are 5-1
If you want to argue that this wasn’t a perfect game for the Chiefs, I won’t put up a fight. It wasn’t the kind of overwhelming performance that we expect a Super Bowl champion to deliver under the leadership of that game’s MVP.
But in many ways, that’s exactly what it was.
Championship teams find ways to win — even when their starting left guard, starting right tackle and starting center are suddenly replaced. (Head coach Andy Reid said after the game that center Austin Reiter had been working through a “tender” knee; the Chiefs had simply decided to let him rest it).
They find ways to win when a game is rescheduled to a weird time on a Monday — or when the team is playing on the third Monday out of four. They find ways to win after being embarrassed at home against a team they routinely dominate — or when they have to put their pass-first offense to a difficult test in a rainstorm.
Say what you like about the Bills. They may not have played well against the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday, but they did come into the game 4-1. And just one team left New Era Stadium 5-1.
I know a lot of Chiefs fans who would have been ecstatic to get through the opening six weeks of this season 5-1. Well… here we are.