Bills made big mistake to end regulation in loss to Chiefs
The Buffalo Bills suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC Divisional round, and one key error late in regulation may have done them in.
The Bills appeared to have won the game when they took a 36-33 lead with 13 seconds left in regulation. However, they opted to kick deep on the ensuing kickoff instead of a squib kick, which could have potentially taken a few seconds off the clock if the Chiefs were forced into a return. The kickoff went for a touchback, and no time came off the clock as a result.
A number of people on Twitter suggested this was a key error that may have cost the Bills the game. Tony Romo also pointed out on CBS prior to the kickoff that putting the ball short of the end zone would be prudent.
Hate that Bills didn’t squib kickoff to run some time off the clock.
Major error IMO.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) January 24, 2022
Remember when Romo said after Bills go-ahead TD that they should kickoff short of the goal line to run a few seconds.
— Dari Nowkhah (@ESPNDari) January 24, 2022
As dangerous as it may have been, Bills needed to make Chiefs return that kickoff.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) January 24, 2022
Would this have made a difference? It’s certainly possible. The Chiefs wound up getting the ball with 13 seconds left and all three timeouts remaining. That gave them a lot of options to move the ball into field goal range for Harrison Butker, as the remaining timeouts meant the Chiefs could still throw to the middle of the field without the clock running too much. Kansas City needed just two plays to move into range for Butker. Even taking three or four seconds off the clock on a kick return might have left the Chiefs with one play at most, and might have forced them to simply try to set up a Hail Mary attempt instead.
The flipside is the Bills would have been risking a big Tyreek Hill return if something went wrong. Hill had burned the Bills with a 45-yard punt return earlier in the fourth quarter, which was likely in the back of Sean McDermott’s mind.
Buffalo’s mistake here was not nearly as glaring as the errors another special teams unit made over the weekend. Still, a better-executed kickoff might have been the difference between victory and defeat in this one.
Photo: Jan 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott before the AFC Wild Card NFL Playoff game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports