June 19, 2024

For certain Bills fans who have reached a certain age, the memories of Scott Norwood’s wide-right 47-yard field goal in Super Bowl XXV and the subsequent three Super Bowl losses had seemingly faded. It appeared to be a new era in Buffalo, marked by frequent appearances in the NFL playoffs, a quarterback capable of remarkable feats like effortlessly throwing a football 65 yards, and the advantage of hosting the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs instead of the usual reverse scenario. As the Bills came into form at the right time this season, questions arose about the Chiefs’ offensive struggles and how they would handle the boisterous atmosphere in Buffalo. It seemed like the opportune moment for the Bills to overcome their postseason nemesis. However, the unpredictable nature of curses is that they can resurface at any given time.

With just 1:47 remaining on Sunday, and the Buffalo Bills trailing 27-24, kicker Tyler Bass took the field to attempt a crucial 44-yard field goal. As fans anticipated the Chiefs’ potential response and the prospect of heading into overtime, the unthinkable happened—the kick went wide right. There were various ways the kick could have missed, perhaps with a fortuitous doink or a block. However, it had to go wide right, not only dealing a blow to Buffalo’s hopes but also adding a painful twist to the situation.

With an ensuing first-down for the Chiefs, it marked the third time in four years that Kansas City had brought an end to Buffalo’s season, propelling Patrick Mahomes and his team to their sixth consecutive AFC championship game. As highlighted by Tony Romo on CBS, Mahomes has achieved the AFC championship every season since becoming a starter.

Typical of most Bills-Chiefs matchups, this game was filled with intrigue, emotion, and dizzying momentum swings. In the first half, Josh Allen seemed ready to overcome the Chiefs’ dominance. He displayed near-flawless performance, throwing for 111 yards and battling hard for additional yards on the ground. By halftime, he had accumulated 51 rushing yards and scored two rushing touchdowns, appearing to elevate his game to the next level. However, despite this, the Kansas City secondary managed to control Buffalo’s passing game, keeping the Bills ahead by only 17-13.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ offense, which had shown signs of struggling at times during the season, came alive. This resurgence was facilitated by a weakened Bills pass rush and a zone defense that overlooked Travis Kelce at critical moments. Although Buffalo tightened their defense late in the second half, it happened only after allowing Kansas City to score on five consecutive possessions. Describing this as the best the Chiefs’ offense had looked in quite some time would be an understatement.

The second half continued to witness shifts in momentum, but this time, they were characterized more by errors than the spectacular shootout we experienced in the overtime classic from two seasons ago. With the Chiefs leading 27-24 early in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth and five from their own 40, Sean McDermott attempted a fake punt with Damar Hamlin that ultimately failed. Following a 29-yard rush by Isiah Pacheco on the next play, Mecole Hardman fumbled a short completion that should have resulted in a touchdown through the end zone. Despite the opportunity, Buffalo couldn’t capitalize. In their final drive, the Bills’ offense, which had lost its spark in the second half, had a chance to redeem itself and secure a trip to Baltimore. However, the short-passing game and somewhat predictable runs by Allen only managed to set up Bass for the missed field goal that left the entire NFL in astonishment.

Had Bass made the kick, Mahomes would have had just under two minutes to attempt a comeback. Given Mahomes’ track record, it was more than plausible. Post-game, Mahomes addressed the skepticism surrounding the Chiefs’ ability to perform as a road team in the playoffs, stating, “We were going to prove a point and show we can play anywhere.”

Kansas City now returns to their familiar spot, the AFC championship, where they will face a formidable obstacle in the Ravens’ defense. Nevertheless, Mahomes, who was somewhat overshadowed during the regular season, tends to elevate his game in the postseason. Additionally, the Chiefs’ defense on Sunday demonstrated a level of excellence reminiscent of its impressive peak in the regular season.

On the flip side, the Bills, having lost another close game to the Chiefs, find themselves returning to a familiar place: the offseason. This time, the “what ifs” will be particularly challenging to come to terms with.

<span>Photograph: Al Bello/Getty Images</span>

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