There was a power shift in the American Football Conference on a stormy Sunday night in Kansas City.
Oh, the Bills beating the Chiefs on their home field wouldn’t have been a total shocker, after all, the betting public, which sets the line, made KC a modest 2½-point favorite … almost a toss-up.
But only the most myopic Buffalo fan would have even suggested that the Bills would go into Arrowhead Stadium and eviscerate the defending conference champion before a national TV audience.
Their 38-20 victory was every bit as one-sided as the score.
In improving to 4-1, Buffalo is tied for the NFL’s second-best record, behind only Arizona (5-0), and has a two-game lead in the AFC-East. Equally compelling, the Chiefs, at 2-3, are now in last place in the conference’s West division.
NONE OF this is a fluke.
The Bills lead the league in scoring (34 points per game) and bookend that by topping the NFL in fewest points (13) and yards (252) surrendered per game.
And, oh yeah, Buffalo also paces the league in takeaways with 15, all during the current four-game win streak. Indeed, while most of the Bills-Chiefs stats from Monday night were relatively even, the most important one — and it stood out in lights — the takeaway tally which coach Sean McDermott’s team won 4-0.
And this time there were no excuses or asterisks.
Yeah, Buffalo’s previous three victims were playing backup quarterbacks, two of them in Orchard Park, and its opponents were a collective 5-11.
But the Chiefs played in the Super Bowl last February and quarterback Patrick Mahomes is no worse than in the top three at his position in the league.
This win was accomplished at Arrowhead Stadium, one of the NFL’s toughest venues, and it was fashioned in the midst of heavy rain and lightning that delayed the game for nearly 75 minutes.
IT’S ODD, while quarterback Josh Allen (315 passing yards, 3 TDs tosses, leading rusher with 59 yards and a touchdown run), wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (two TD receptions) and tight end Dawson Knox (three catches for 117 yards including a career-long 53-yard touchdown) supplied plenty of offense, this impressive win belonged to coordinator Lesli Frazier’s defense.
Mahomes never seemed comfortable in passing situations, wasn’t able to stretch the field and turned the ball over three times. He was intercepted twice, one a “pick six” by safety Micah Hyde who went 26 yards for the score the other by rookie defensive end Greg Rousseau who used his long arms to tip a pass to himself deep in Buffalo territory. Mahomes also had a good shotgun snap slip through his hands with cornerback Tre’Davious White recovering. The fourth takeaway was recovery of a fumble on a kickoff return.
One big concern had been controlling Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, the NFL’s premier tight end, who had burned Buffalo for 13 catches and four touchdowns in two games last season. Matt Milano, the Bills best coverage linebacker, was out with a hamstring injury, but the secondary filled the void. Kelce finished with six catches for a modest 57 yards and a 1-yard oh-by-the-way TD with the game long-since decided.
THE GAME was also continued vindication for both Knox and Sanders.
Knox, Buffalo’s third-round pick in 2019, never caught a touchdown pass at Mississippi and was becoming viewed as a bust as he was plagued by drops and injuries his first two seasons.
But this year he’s been a revelation. In five games Knox has caught 18 balls, five for touchdowns, which leads NFL tight ends. That’s the same number of scoring passes he recorded among 52 receptions in 27 games his first two seasons.
Sanders, 34, in an 11-year career with Pittsburgh, Denver, San Francisco and New Orleans had a strong NFL pedigree, but was signed a week after speedster John Brown, three years younger, was released in March. It seemed a weird exchange.
However, in five games, Sanders has 19 catches including four for TDs and has been a vital locker room presence.
Brown is currently unemployed.
ABOUT THE only negative for the Bills on Sunday night was penalties.
Buffalo came into the game with only 22 infractions in the first four games, fourth-best in the NFL.
Against Kansas City, the Bills were flagged a numbing 13 times. An illegal motion and offensive pass interference against Sanders and a defensive holding against cornerback Siran Neal were ultimately declined, but the other 10 were marked off.
Seven went against the Bills’ defense: White and Neal (holding), ends A.J. Epenesa and Jerry Hughes (offsides), White (pass interference), safety Jordan Poyer (unnecessary roughness) and tackle Ed Oliver (roughing the passer).
On offense: center Mitch Morse and tackle Dion Dawkins were flagged for holding and Allen for intentional grounding.
The ones against Oliver and Allen were the most punitive as the former kept a KC drive alive when it looked as if the Chiefs were mounting a comeback and the later was a case where the Bills’ QB sometimes tries to do too much when under pressure.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)