Three turnovers by the Bills offense kept it a closer game than it should have been, but a strong defensive takeaway effort by Buffalo coupled with solid rushing from Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch lifted the Bills to a 16-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
With Buffalo's offense again struggling to stay on the field, it was the defense that made the plays down the stretch with four second half interceptions including one with the Chiefs threatening to take the lead with under three minutes remaining.
"Defensively we were put on the field a couple of times in the last two minutes to finish it out," said Chris Kelsay. "And in order to do that you've got to stay focused and stay determined and that's what we did. Hats off to the rest of my teammates and the coaches, just a 60 minute ball game."
Down 16-10 the Chiefs put one of their longest drives of the game together marching down to the Bills 21-yard line with 2:24 left on the clock. But after a dropped pass by Chris Chambers at the Buffalo one-yard line on 3rd-and-10, a Matt Cassel pass on 4th-and-10 intended for Chambers was tipped by Bryan Scott and intercepted by Jairus Byrd at the Buffalo five-yard line.
"It felt really good," said Byrd. "I expect a lot out of myself and any time you can have the quick success that I had, I just want to help the team win, and by getting turnovers and stuff that's a big part of it."
It was Byrd's ninth interception of the season as the rookie now has the second most interceptions in a season in team history.
The game was thought to be over, but with the Bills unable to convert a third down on their possession after the Byrd takeaway, the Chiefs got the ball back for one last ditch chance to win with 1:10 left on the clock. However, Matt Cassel's Hail Mary pass as time expired was intercepted in the end zone by George Wilson.
"They never flinched on the sideline," said interim head coach Perry Fewell of his defense. "They said, 'We'll get it done.' I thought they came up with the turnovers when they had to come up with the turnovers. I thought they hung in and fought hard when they had to fight hard. I was just very proud of them. They were very determined to get a victory."
The Bills had a chance to put the game away midway through the third quarter, but Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted in the end zone on a second-and-three from the Chiefs five-yard line. Buffalo's defense would quickly force a three-and-out getting the ball back.
Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson pounded out 25 yards on the drive, but it stalled at the Chiefs six-yard line, forcing the Bills to settle for a 24-yard field goal and a 13-3 lead.
The Chiefs had a quick response, as Jamaal Charles took advantage of a gaping hole on 1st-and-10 from his own 24 and sprinted 76 yards to the end zone to pull Kansas City to within three (13-10) late in the third.
"It was a bad call on my part," said Fewell. "They caught me in a blitz and that was a bad call, I thought, I had some tendencies on them and they caught me."
Buffalo's offense could not sustain drives even against the league's 31st ranked defense converting just three of their 12 third down opportunities. But their run game was productive rolling up 200 yards with Fred Jackson gaining 99 and Marshawn Lynch 84.
"It was huge," said Jackson of their run game success. "It's something that we want to do consistently, with the circumstances of injuries and things like that we haven't been able to, but it's one of the things if we're able to do it definitely improves our chances of winning. Marshawn and myself feel like if we can go out and do this on a consistent basis we're going to be a hard team to beat."
Despite the production, the Bills offense could not sustain drives or finish them off going three and out or four and out on five of their last seven possessions.
Paul Posluszny delivered another big play after Rian Lindell's missed 51-yard field goal attempt gave the Chiefs the ball at their own 41-yard line. On a 3rd-and-3 at the Kansas City 49, Posluszny caught a deflected pass intended for Chris Chambers returning it to the Chiefs' 35-yard line. The Buffalo offense could only move into field goal range, but Lindell's 36-yard field goal put the Bills up 16-10 with eight minutes left to play.
"They played great," said Ryan Fitzpatrick of the defense. "They really clamped down and kept them out of the end zone. They played great all day, forcing the turnovers."
Buffalo's defense set the tone early sending the Chiefs three-and-out on their opening drive. Following what looked to be a costly turnover, the Bills defense would come up with a big play. Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked and fumbled inside his own 10-yard line and Kansas City recovered setting up 1st-and-goal at the Buffalo nine.
After three straight carries by Jamaal Charles got the Chiefs to the one-yard line, Kansas City chose to go for it on fourth and goal. Matt Cassel ran a bootleg out to the left, but Aaron Schobel beat him to the corner dragging him down for a sack and turnover on downs to keep the game scoreless.
"They got into a formation where we thought they would toss the ball outside," said Fewell. "And then when the quarterback kept it, that's a Schobel play. That's what we missed all last year. Sometimes the guy makes plays and you go, 'Man, I'm glad we've got this guy.'"
"I just lined up a little wider in a nine technique and he sort of acted like he was going to release and I tried to stay square and be able to react either way," said Schobel.
The Bills offense then turned in a big play on the first play of their ensuing possession as Marshawn Lynch reversed his field on 1st-and-10 from his own eight-yard line, got a great block from Fitzpatrick and rumbled 47 yards to the Chiefs 45.
Fitzpatrick then hooked up with Shawn Nelson for a 17-yard gain to move the Bills to the Chiefs 23. Three plays later Fitzpatrick hit Terrell Owens on a crossing pattern and Owens did the rest ducking inside the right front pylon for a nine-yard touchdown play.
It was Owens' 146th career score putting him in sole possession of fourth place on the NFL's all-time touchdown list.
"It was two crossing routes by myself and Lee (Evans) and they played a zone look and the linebacker tried to knock me off my pattern so we bumped, but I regained my balance and Ryan gave me an opportunity to make a play," said Owens. "It was a great team win."
The Chiefs drove deep into Buffalo territory on the next series, but Jairus Byrd and Paul Posluszny teamed up for a big stop on a third-and-three at the Bills five-yard line, holding Chris Chambers to a two-yard gain on a receiver screen to force a 21-yard field goal attempt. Kansas City was only able to cut the Buffalo lead to 7-3 with 10:25 left in the first half.
The Bills would answer with a field goal drive of their own as Fred Jackson accounted for 43 of the 59 yards gained before Rian Lindell put a 41-yard attempt through the uprights for a 10-3 Bills advantage with just over a minute remaining in the second quarter.
"Both guys ran the ball well," said offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. "They're good running backs. We're lucky to have them. We went into this game saying we wanted to run the football and I think we did a good job of that."
With the win Buffalo improved to 5-8 on the season. They wrap up their division slate next Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium when they play host to New England for a 1 pm kickoff.