Bills lost this game for several reasons. Here are my observations from watching the game as a fan:
Weather-The Bills controlled the tempo early on. They used a recipe that wins games. Run the ball, take the deep shots when needed. The deep ball was there from the get go. When the weather is rainy and cold, the advantage goes to the offense. The offensive players know where the play is going to go. The Bills’ game-plan to get the ball to Sammy deep worked even better because of the weather. Even when WRs weren’t getting deep, the threat of the deep ball was in the defenders minds the rest of the day and that opened up some medium range completions.
- After three unsuccessful drives by the Chiefs, they also started taking advantage of the weather. They started targeting their speedy WR Jeremy Maclin deep. It was an odd sight seeing the corners of the Bills struggling to cover Maclin. He is a fast and quick twitch WR, but Darby and Gilmore have held their own this year. Those big plays forced the hand of defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman.
- The weather affected play-calling because when the Bills would scheme to get pressure, the defenders didn’t have the traction to make those sudden, change of direction moves to get to the QB. Gannon pointed this out in the first half. So both teams had very little success rushing the passer, if you look at the total passing yardage of both teams it’s pretty obvious the QBs had all day.
- The cold and rainy weather also helped the Chiefs. Their new RB Ware, 5’10” 228 pound back is a downhill runner who easily breaks arm tackles. He broke tackles, ran over people and guys didn’t want to tackle him. When it gets cold, guys do not want to tackle a load like Ware.
Injuries– I really believe that the injuries that the Bills suffered absolutely affected how the game was called.
- On offense, not having Karlos Williams hurt our run game. Dixon didn’t carry it much but he also isn’t the threat that Williams is. I thought that Williams was going to be featured in that downhill run game that Roman dominated the Chiefs with last year.
- But I think all of the injuries on defense caught up to the Bills. Not having Mario and Kyle definitely hurt our pass rush, that’s a given. But then the Bills lost Alex Carrington. Carrington, although a role player, he was expected hto have a big role this week. He was the main defensive end opposite Hughes. Carrington and IK Enemkpali were supposed to rotate in the place of Mario Williams.
- The injury to Bradham was a bigger hit. Although he has struggled at times, Bradham is an instinctive and athletic linebacker. He may not always make the right play or even the tackle for that matter but he is instinctive and athletic. Losing him in the third quarter put backup AJ Tarpley in a tough spot. Tarpley had to fill in on all of the base and sub packages. So when the Bills would liked to have blitzed, or even show blitz then drop to zone, he couldn’t execute. He isn’t a down hill tackler, most of his tackles are at the second level. He is a straight line defender and isn’t a guy that can run. So if Rex and Thurman wanted to call a blitz or even fake the blitz and drop the LBs they couldn’t because they didn’t have the rangy Bradham. That hampered play-calling and it killed the Bills the most when the rushers couldn’t get to the QB (see Alex Smith’s scrambles). The weather, big plays deep and injuries all factored into the passive play-calling by Rex and Thurman. It forced the coordinators to play more coverage schemes, gave Smith all day and more importantly it allowed the Chiefs to pound Spencer Ware 19 times for 114 yds and 1 TD.
Penalties– 9 penalties for 91 yards. The most blatant penalty was on Jerry Hughes. A personal foul penalty. For all of the people that say the penalty situation is on Rex, I TOTALLY disagree. This comes down to the players on the field. Players aren’t coached to hold or to hit players late etc. 9 penalties for 91 yards is just unacceptable, especially in big games. Players need to be held accountable.
Coaching– This was obviously the biggest disappointment. In my opinion the coaches have put the players in the positions to win throughout the year. That wasn’t any different today. I thought the game-plan on both sides of the ball were solid. Where I think the coaching staff let the fans down is obviously in the challenge department.
- The first one was the deep pass to Jeremy Maclin. It was 1st and 10 and Darby was injured so Mario Butler was on the field. The Chiefs knew that and they went right at him. It was a typical play-call by coaches, a “shot” play. 1st down form the Bills 40 yard line, with Butler in…. I don’t understand why we didn’t defend against that typical play-call, but that is playing Monday morning quarterback. It was a 37 yard bomb and Maclin definitely trapped the ball. But No Challenge.
The very next play the Chiefs put their first points on the board with Spencer Wares TD from the 3 yard line. It took the momentum away from the Bills and gave the Chiefs a shot in the arm. Bills up 16-7.
- The second play was on 3rd down and 11. Bills got the Chiefs behind in down and distance. Hughes rushed too deep and Smith saw an opening. Smith took it and ran up the middle and as he was attempting to get the 1st he got up-ended and the refs gave him the 1st down. The replay on TV showed that the forearm touched the ground well short of the first take a look:
This play wasn’t as big a play as it could have been because the Chiefs were already in field goal range. But Rex did not challenge the play. Bills go down 27-22.
- The third play that really frustrated me as a fan was the reception by Chris Hogan. It was 2nd and 10 with 2:39 left in the game. Taylor hit Hogan with a pass crossing the middle of the field. Hogan caught the pass and took multiple steps, officially transitioned into a runner and once past the 1st down marker he was tackled. After hitting the ground the ball popped out and was ruled incomplete.
How the refs even ruled incomplete baffles me, but nonetheless Rex Ryan did not challenge the play and two plays later the Bills turnover the ball on downs and lose the game. I understand that Rex was worried about the time out situation. I understand that the stadium didn’t and usually doesn’t put replays up on certain “close” calls, but SOMEONE up in the booth had to have seen the TV replay. SOMEONE needed to relay to Rex that he should definitely challenge the play. Well, they didn’t and the drive stalled. In essence ending the Bills chances at winning the game and making the playoffs.
These aren’t excuses on why we loss, but when we as a fan base have been there for this team, we deserve more. We are loyal to a fault. As fans we expect coaches, not just head coaches, to help this team win. Not hold back the team’s chances of getting a big win. I can easily defend play-calls and personnel decisions. But I can not defend the lack of communication and the failure to make crucial decisions in high pressure situations.