Buffalo Bills Divisional Playoff Game – 4 Takeaways from a Season Ending Defeat

From the opening kickoff, this game seemed destined to be decided in the final moments. One play could literally decide the outcome. In a game this good, the smallest of mistakes loomed large. The first turnover could be the thing that sent one team under. The first team to blink would have their season on the brink. The game lived up to the hype, and the only real disappointment was that one team had to lose. Here are four takeaways from an epic battle (or a normal Chiefs-Bills game lately).

Takeaways From the Bills Season-Ending Loss

A FAKE PUNT?????? REALLY??????

Of all the times to attempt a risky play, a divisional playoff game when you are down in the fourth quarter inside your own 30 is not one of them. Not at all. Even if the special teams saw only 10 men on the field, it was fourth-and-five. At best, it’s a 50/50 chance and you can’t take that chance in the playoffs. It took a miracle fumble bounce by Kansas City to somewhat redeem this boneheaded play, but the damage was done. The momentum shifted, and Buffalo never really got it back. There are bold moves and there are bumbling shots in the dark. Knowing the difference…are the teams still playing next week.

During the interview coming out of the half, Sean McDermott was asked what message he gave his team before coming back out. McDermott responded that he told the team “Go for it”. Hopefully, the fake punt wasn’t what he meant. There needed to be more calculation in the chaos. There needed to be vision beyond just rolling the dice and ‘taking a chance’. We won’t know if we will ever definitively know who made the call to fake the punt, whether it was an on the field decision because of the 10-man defense or whether the call was made from the sidelines. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the source was; the outcome was disaster.

Dropped Balls and Dropped Coverages Doomed the Bills

Sheffield drops a long ball. Diggs lets a deep throw slip through his fingers in the fourth quarter. Cook drops a sure touchdown in the second quarter. The little things mattered. The Bills had chances. The game was within reach. The dropped balls were also within reach; they were catches that should have been made. The little things ended up being big misses. The little things are never little in a game like this.

This was a divisional playoff game. The Bills have played the Kansas City Chiefs seven times in the last four years. So, they know each other. Therefore, there is no viable explanation as to why Travis Kelce, clearly the most dangerous player on the field, was left wide open for a touchdown. Kelce led the Chiefs with five catches for 75 yards, scoring two total touchdowns. If there was one guy to cover, to set your schemes around, to make sure you knew where he was at all times, it was Kelce. The defense had been able to cover up their inequities admirably, but against a playoff and Super Bowl-caliber opponent, the jig was finally up and the defense bent too much.

Brady Has Won the OC Job

There is little doubt that the Bills offense was a different animal once Joe Brady put on the headset. The running game exploded, Josh Allen looked more confident, and more points were scored. Football is a business and workers can come and go. No one wishes ill will on Ken Dorsey, but we have enough data now to prove that Brady has been better than his predecessor.

Josh Allen always plays with an edge and too often plays on the edge. Having Brady in his ear seems to have at least helped Allen mitigate his decisions and keep him within the safety barriers -most of the time. Give Brady a full offseason to set his plans and build his playbook while cultivating his process into the offense and watch out. The Bills need something to edge past the Chiefs, who are officially their nemesis. Joe Brady is part of the solution.

Brady has also used Dalton Kincaid in the offense more, and it has reaped rewards. Kincaid is the go-to guy if Allen needs a completion and first down. Kincaid twice slapped a ball away on a fumble play, both times not allowing the Chiefs to recover. THAT is the kind of guy you want on your team. Brady used Kincaid and Cook more, and those two were the lynchpin that helped the Bills go on a six-game win streak that started with the Chiefs and not so ironically, ended with the Chiefs.

In a Game This Close, Officials need to be Better

It’s not a new story. It’s not a different take. It’s the same old problem that has plagued the entire NFL the entire year. Writers are sick of writing about it. Fans are sick of seeing it. Every game this weekend was marred by at least one egregious penalty call or non-call on an obvious penalty. What is it going to take for the NFL to do something about it?

Fans have begged, they’ve screamed, they’ve ranted and taken the time to put together copious video evidence showing just how horrible the officiating has been. They’ve received silence from the office of Roger Goodell, which is completely unacceptable. All the fans ask is for consistency in the calls, and to make the obvious calls correctly.

Twice, Allen was tackled and then landed on after the play was over. Neither time was that called roughing. Had it been Mahomes, it is absolutely certain it would have been flagged, both times. Soft pass interference calls on Buffalo but nothing on Kansas City. It’s disgusting. It’s wrong. At this rate, there will be a huge call in one of the championship games that effects the outcome and an explosion of rage and cries for overhauling the system. And then more silence from the League office.

In the age of HD cameras and instant replays, the way the game is officiated is still in the 80’s. The refs obviously need help and a copy of the rulebook. Cameras and instant analysis of video can give the ability to judiciously make a correct call in seconds now instead of minutes. The game won’t be delayed or would only slightly be delayed. Isn’t that worth getting it right? The refs are not cutting it anymore. Instead of cutting them out, or cutting them some slack, lets get them some help, and cut the horrendous problem out of the best game on the planet. Fans and teams alike deserve better.

Final Thought

The reality of any sport is that only one team hoists a trophy at the conclusion of the campaign. Only one. Two teams will make it to the Super Bowl and one will lose. It’s what makes sports unique and winning incredibly hard. Fans love it and love their teams, and it drives them crazy and so do their teams. Western New York will recover, they are a hardy bunch and the best neighbors in the world. But just once, these fans should get to experience the joy of their team ascending to the mountain top. Maybe next year. Hope springs eternal in Buffalo, but it will have to wait another year to burst forth with tears of joy from the Bills Mafia.

Main Image: Jamie Germano/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

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