1. Big plays win the day
Buffalo staked itself to an 11-point halftime lead thanks in large part to their ability to hit on big plays. The Bills put together plays of 61, 35 and 53 yards in the first half, the last two of which went for long touchdowns that helped put them up 24-13 at halftime.
"It was one of those games," said Josh Allen. "I was talking to some of the guys. I know we didn't have a lot of plays. We didn't have really a lot of third downs, really a lot of first downs, but we had a lot of explosive plays. Guys got open, made some unbelievable plays."
They weren't the only big plays turned in by Buffalo's offense through the course of the game, but they set the tone against the Chiefs leaky defense.
Allen was responsible for a pair of back-to-back 20-yard plays when he scrambled for 22 yards and followed it with a 23-yard completion down the right sideline to Dawson Knox. That drive culminated in a nine-yard touchdown run by Allen to give the Bills a lead they'd never relinquish (7-3).
On their ensuing possession Allen uncorked a laser throw to Emmanuel Sanders for an over-the-shoulder 35-yard touchdown.
"(Number) 17 is special, special," said Sanders, who has played with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees. "Really I just got open and then the ball he's delivering on the run. I mean like, it was on a line, a rope, and after I caught it, I didn't even know what to do because I just kept thinking like, 'Yo, that throw was crazy!' Literally he just put it there and it just stuck in my hand, I was like, 'What the heck?' I mean, this dude is special. He's a special quarterback and I've played with a lot of great ones. It's just ridiculous what he's doing out there. Even jumping over the defender. I mean he was just on a whole other level."
Buffalo's trigger man would again find a target deep on their next series as he laid one out for Stefon Diggs after he won on what looked like a corner-post for 61 yards to set up a field goal.
Then on the second play of the team's fifth offensive series, Allen rolled out on the second play of the drive and hurled a deep pass down the sideline to a wide open Dawson Knox who had slipped behind the coverage and he covered the last 10 yards to the end zone for a 53-yard scoring play.
"It's just another play that Josh made," said Knox. "I mean he's on the run. I don't know how many yards he threw that in the air, but he's just one of those things we practice our scramble drills, and if no one's deep, go deep. Thankfully Josh saw me and on the run throwing the ball, I mean I'm sure it was 50 yards on a dot like it was a perfect throw."
By the time the game reached the half, Allen averaged more than 31 yards per completion and became just the 12th player since 1991 to average 31 yards or more per completion in a first half.
The big plays weren't as numerous in the second half, although Allen did find Knox one more time for a 41-yard pass play.
But even when the big plays didn't result in points they were instrumental in maintaining a field position advantage in the kicking game, giving the Chiefs offense long fields to drive.
All told the Bills had seven plays of more than 20 yards in the game, while Kansas City's offense managed just a pair with the biggest being a 26-yard completion to Mecole Hardman.
Buffalo's big plays was also the reason why Josh Allen threw for 315 yards on just 15 completions in the game. His 12.1 yards per pass attempt were a new single-game career high.
And their 38 points scored made it four straight games of scoring at least 35 points or more for just the second time in team history (2004).
2. Defense commits to coverage
Many observers of the game Sunday night thought the Bills took a page out of Tampa Bay's Super Bowl playbook where they didn't blitz Patrick Mahomes much at all and committed to coverage. Truth be told, in Week 6 last season in Buffalo, Leslie Frazier's defensive unit didn't blitz either. The problem was their front four didn't perform as well as they did this time around as they effectively kept Mahomes from escaping the pocket with regularity and got enough pressure to disrupt the timing of the passing game.
Knowing Mahomes entered the game as the number one ranked passer against the blitz it was a wise decision. Frazier and his staff chose to play a lot of two-deep safety looks to keep Tyreek Hill from finding any space over the top. They also mixed in some dime coverage with six defensive backs so as not to put too heavy a coverage responsibility on AJ Klein, who played in place of an injured Matt Milano.
"Leslie and the staff did a really good job. And then the players buy in every week, they come in hungry, whatever day they're first in the building and they embrace the game plan and they really play together," said head coach Sean McDermott. "It's fun to watch them play, because they're a very unselfish group and they work hard during the week and their success is not by accident."
The result were just two plays of 20 yards or more for the Chiefs with one of those plays being a Mahomes scramble.
"That's what we try to do each and every week," said Micah Hyde of preventing big plays. "We understand it's a huge challenge in this league when you go out there and you play a top notch quarterback, tight end, receivers.
Siran Neal was deployed as a dime coverage player and though he was flagged for a couple of penalties, Frazier effectively mixed in some man coverage looks on 3rd-and-short and 3rd-and-mediums.
Speaking of third down Kansas City had a 96 percent conversion rate this season (24-25) on any play that was 3rd-and-7 or less thus far this season. Early in the game it looked like that success was going to continue as they made good on each of their first four third down opportunities.
But Buffalo got a stop when they forced a 3rd-and-12 to force a field goal.
Greg Rousseau also had a good tackle for loss on 3rd-and-2 on the Chiefs third possession that forced a punt.
The Bills also got a stop on a 3rd-and-15 for the Chiefs, which was followed by a 4th-and-5 where Jordan Poyer knocked down a pass intended for Travis Kelce.
A 3rd-and-12 at the end of the first half was also foiled forcing the Chiefs to take a long field goal into the break.
Come the second half the Bills also notched third down stops on a 3rd-and-4 when Justin Zimmer had a quarterback pressure, and on a 3rd-and-5 when Micah Hyde picked off a pass that went in and out of the hands of Tyreek Hill and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. And Tre'Davious White made a tackle after a short completion to get a stop on a 3rd-and-6.
So entering a game where the Chiefs had failed to convert on third down just once when the yard to gain was seven yards away or less through four games, Buffalo's defense managed to get four such stops on Sunday night alone.
That plus the team's four takeaways, with three coming on the defensive side of the ball, was a testament to the team's preparation for this pivotal AFC matchup.
"We believe in ourselves. We believe in our teammates," said Jordan Poyer. "We believe in just the way we go about things. Obviously last year left a bad taste in my mouth so we wanted to come back and play well today. We had a great week of practice, coach put us in position to make plays. Micah got a pick six. Greg got a pick. Just some big plays in the game. Siran's fumble on the kickoff. There were some big plays that we had to keep us in the lead."
The defensive effort from front to back effectively held the Chiefs to their lowest point output of the season (20).
3. Opportunity Knox
Dawson Knox came into Sunday night's matchup on a roll having scored four touchdowns in his last three games. Buffalo's third-year tight end lost no momentum at Kansas City as he had three of the offense's six longest plays from scrimmage including a 53-yard scoring play.
"Josh trusts him to make plays, and he's made plays, and so those kind of grow together," said McDermott. "It was good to see. I mean he's done it now every game that I can think about this year. So he's off to a really strong start. I think Dawson would tell you in our entire football team will tell you, there's still work to do."
Knox's game-high 117 receiving yards marked a single-game career high for the tight end, who now has five touchdown receptions in his last four games.
"He's getting open I trust him," said Allen of Knox. "I've trusted him ever since I've known him. I think he's trusting himself now, understanding that every play there's a potential of him getting the ball. He runs the right routes. I've mentioned before, he's one of our better blockers and I'd say he's one of the better blocking tight ends in the league and he just comes to work each and every day and just wants to help the team win football games."