The wonderful ride that was the 2020 Buffalo Bills season came to a disappointing end in Kansas City on Sunday night in a 38-24 loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium.
It wasn't the loss that was most disappointing part, though. We all knew the Chiefs were the kings of the AFC until someone else proved differently. They were the defending Super Bowl champions, 15-1 in games that mattered this season, and had the best player in the league, Patrick Mahomes, at the most important position on the field.
The disappointing part was the performance of the Bills offense and the coaching.
We had been thinking about this matchup for a while, anticipating that a berth in Super Bowl LV would have to include a Bills win in Kansas City. But I was confident the Bills had the most important asset needed to get that victory - an offense that can score with, and even out-score Mahomes and company.
But for the second time in as many meetings this season, the Chiefs defense won the battle, and rather decisively.
Josh Allen looked confused and tentative throughout the night. He was off target on some throws, made bad decisions on others, and held on to the ball too long on other drop backs and lost chunks of yards on sacks.
The Bills' two big play threats in the passing game, Stefon Diggs and John Brown, were kept in check by a Chiefs secondary that played much better than I anticipated. Since this was the second time they have done that, I guess I underestimated that group.
The Bills were never able to get any explosive plays in that passing game. They tried some deep shots, but couldn't connect until a deep middle throw for Diggs that picked up 34 yards with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter. At that point, the Bills were down 38-21 and the game was pretty much over but for the clock to tick down.
Diggs, who was limited to 46 yards in the Week 6 home loss to the Chiefs, had just 28 yards on four catches through three quarters. Brown finished the night with two catches for 24 yards.
Allen and the Bills offense had 10 drives and scored just two touchdowns. You don't beat Kansas City with that kind of production unless your defense comes up with a super human performance. Don't forget that one of those two touchdowns came when the Bills recovered a muffed punt at the Chiefs' three-yard line.
The Bills converted just 36% on third down, well-below their league-leading 47% average from the regular season.
Buffalo was ineffective in the red zone, going just 2-for-5 against, what was, the worst red zone defense in the regular season. The Chiefs had given up a touchdown on 77% of their opponent's drives inside the 20-yard line.
The Bills very uncharacteristically settled for field goals, which is a huge mistake when you face the Mahomes-led Chiefs offense. It appeared the Bills were coaching as if they were scared of Kansas City, or they had no faith in Allen and the offense.
Understandably, the offense didn't give the coaches much to have faith in, but the Bills had no choice. They needed to get into the end zone.
On their first drive, the Bills went for it on 4th-and-1 at the Kansas City 48-yard line, but later in the drive opted to kick a field goal on 4th-and-3 at the Chiefs' 33-yard line.
But the two calls that drew the ire of many Bills fans would come inside the Kansas City 10-yard line.
Trailing 14-9 late in the second quarter, the Bills opted for the kick when facing a 4th-and-goal at the two-yard line.
Sean McDermott said he wanted to get some points, especially with the Chiefs getting the ball to start the third quarter. That was exactly why the Bills needed to go for it. The defense wasn't getting stops. After a three-and-out on their initial possession, the Chiefs put together three-straight touchdown drives of 80, 82 and 77 yards.
Down 24-12 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter, the Bills had a 4th-and-3 at the Kansas City eight-yard line, but, again, chose to go for three points.
It was so frustrating because the Bills had turned into a team that was aggressive and went for those plays so they could keep their explosive offense on the field. They coached all season to get touchdowns, but all of a sudden, they were content to settle for field goals.
Don't get me wrong, Kansas City was clearly the better team, but if you end up losing, at least go down swinging. The Bills took too many third strikes.
When I take a step back and assess the entire season, I can't be anything but happy about how it all played out. But right now, it's hard to get over the disappointment, knowing the Bills are not in the same tier with the Chiefs.