*1 – Run ‘D’ revival *There’s no debating the Chiefs offense has been struggling. Over their last five games their run game production (80.6) had been almost half of what it was in their first five games (156). But the Bills run defense had been struggling in a big way too giving up 638 yards on the ground alone in their last three games. Credit the Bills for being the team that put an end to the trend.
Buffalo’s run defense plugged up the holes and played with far better gap control. As a result, they held the Chiefs to just 55 yards rushing on 19 carries for a 2.9 yards per carry average, more than a half yard below their average over their recent five-game slide (3.6).
“I thought our run defense was outstanding,” said head coach Sean McDermott. “I thought we played fundamentally good football. That’s a credit to the hard work the guys have put in, the coaches included. It starts up front.”
Kareem Hunt, who despite his recent slip in production came into the game as the second-leading rusher in the NFL, was held to just 17 yards on 11 carries to average a miniscule 1.5 yards per rush.
“Anytime you give up a lot of yards rushing three weeks in a row, then you play the second-leading rusher in the league and you don’t give up that many yards it makes you feel a lot better,” said Preston Brown, who led the team with nine tackles. “It’s great for our confidence. So, we’ve got to keep the momentum going.”
Buffalo’s defense was particularly stout against the run in the first half. Hunt had five carries for four yards for the Chiefs. The longest run given up in the first half was an 11-yard scramble by Alex Smith.
“All week we talked about doing our one-eleventh and just get back to doing your job,” said Jordan Poyer. “That’s what got us to where we were early on in the season. Everybody was doing their job and playing one-eleventh on offense, special teams and defense. When we do that we’re a tough team to beat.”
The Chiefs 55 rushing yards was the third-lowest total of the season allowed by the Bills, trumped only by Oakland’s 54 rushing yards in Week 8 and the Jets 38 rushing yards in Week 1.
*2 - Third down was the difference *They started stronger than they finished, but Buffalo’s offense was 6-for-12 on third down conversions in the first half and Kansas City’s offense was 0-for-6. On both sides of the ball, the Bills execution on third down proved critical in staking Buffalo to a 10-point lead at halftime.
Tyrod Taylor and the offense got off to a slow start, but on their fourth possession they went to a two-back, two-tight end set and got some production on the ground with back-to-back runs by LeSean McCoy going for 10 and seven yards.
“Definitely something that we planned early on to give them different personnel to see how they’d play different packages that we were in,” said Taylor. “We were able to get some production in our 22 personnel.”
It eventually led to a 3rd-and-4 that Taylor converted with a five-yard pass to McCoy. Taylor then converted a 3rd-and-5 three plays later to Jordan Matthews for an eight-yard gain. Two plays after that Taylor found Zay Jones for an 11-yard scoring play.
“We ran the ball well at times. Tyrod used his feet at times and we have some critical third down conversions on some drives,” said McDermott. “It wasn’t just one guy. It was spread across the offense, which was good to see.”
Meanwhile the defense had the Chiefs on lockdown on third down. Kansas City didn’t convert a third own opportunity until Alex Smith hit Travis Kelce for a 25-yard pass play to move the chains on a 3rd-and-11.
“We had some different fronts and gave them some odd looks and different looks to try to get a free runner (at the quarterback),” said Brown. “We played some cover-two, and we don’t usually play much cover-two so we did a lot of cover-two to get him off his spot. So I think it worked pretty good.”
“We were able to disguise some looks and I think Alex (Smith) was a little confused sometimes as to where our safeties were rotating or where our linebackers were buzzing so when you’re able to do that you’re able to get them in third-and-long situations and then it’s advantage us,” said Poyer. “We were able to dial up some pressure or show pressure and get out of it and play coverage.”
The Chiefs finished 6-17 on third down, but they went just 1-4 in the fourth quarter with the final third down conversion attempt resulting in a game-sealing interception by Tre’Davious White.
*3 – Hauschka helps *In a game that was ultimately decided by six points, the 10 total points provided by Stephen Hauschka were gigantic. On a day where neither offense was finding the red zone with any form of regularity, Hauschka’s long-distance leg was a major asset.
Though he missed a 52-yard attempt to bring his league-record streak of consecutive 50-plus yard field goals to an end at 13, Hauschka delivered on a 56-yard attempt the next time he lined up to score.
“Hausch had the early (miss), but he came back and said he wanted that kick and he nailed it,” said McDermott of Hauschka’s successful long-range kick.
That 56-yard field goal matched a season-long for Hauschka. His last 56-yard attempt however, was indoors on turf. Sunday’s effort was on grass in late November.
The kick re-established the team’s 10-point lead just before halftime (13-3).
Hauschka also hit from 34 yards out in the first quarter and hit a 49-yarder midway through the third quarter to push Buffalo’s lead back to six (16-10) after a Chiefs touchdown had cut the lead to three.
The Bills veteran kicker is now 7-8 on attempts from 50-yards or more this season.
With his 56-yard field goal, Hauschka set a Bills record with seven 50-yard field goals in a single season passing Dan Carpenter’s six in 2014.