1. Tough sledding for run 'D'
Buffalo's run defense came into Monday's game a respectable 12th in the NFL surrendering just over 103 yards on the ground per game. By the end of the third quarter against the Chiefs, they had given up more than twice that yardage.
Head coach Sean McDermott explained that the defensive game plan was to keep the Chiefs from beating them over the top with their highly explosive receiving corps and scoring quickly and potentially putting the game out of reach as they've done with some of their previous opponents.
"This is an explosive offense, mainly through the air, so you've got to pick your pick your poison here," McDermott said. "What are you trying to take away and then on the other end you're going to give a little bit. I'm not saying that we liked what we gave up in the run game. That said, towards the end of the game we were in the game, as opposed to some people are getting blown out because the balls are flying over their head.
"Obviously, we weren't good enough in the run game. Wished we were better. That's where fundamentals come in."
Kansas City rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire found plenty of green space to run as he averaged 8.1 yards per carry on his first 17 rushes for 138 yards. As a team through three quarters the Chiefs had rolled up a total of 213 yards to average 7.1 per carry.
The Bills defensive line again had a difficult time shedding blocks as there were sizable holes for Kansas City's backs to exploit. Tackling in the open field also proved difficult at times as the Buffalo's defenders had a difficult time getting Edwards-Helaire on the ground on initial contact.
"Yeah he's got good contact balance. He's a good back," said McDermott. "We knew he was a good back coming out in the draft. We did our due diligence on him. I thought we were in the game, towards the end there and we get one stop on defense, where he got out and scrambled on two separate occasions. We've got to do a better job there and we get a chance to go down and maybe it's a different game against a good football team. The bigger picture is we've got some things that we have to continue to work to get corrected and fundamentals, playing more physical at the line of scrimmage is a must."
Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes attempted just 20 passes through the first three quarters as running the ball proved too fruitful to ignore with head coach Andy Reid calling 30 run plays. The 60-40 split in favor of the run game ran opposite to that of Kansas City's play-calling all season, which had been 60 percent pass and 40 percent run.
Edwards-Helaire had a career-high 161 rushing yards on just 26 carries as he average 6.2 yards per carry in the game. Kansas City found great success running to the left for most of the night behind backup guard Mike Remmers and then third string guard Nick Allegretti after Remmers moved to right tackle to spell the injured Mitchell Schwartz.
The 245 rushing yards surrendered by Buffalo was the third-most under head coach Sean McDermott. The last time the Bills allowed more rushing yards in a game was against New England on Dec. 23, 2018 when they gave up 273 in a 24-12 loss.
"Up front, we just have to be better," said Jerry Hughes. "We've got to be fundamentally sound. We have to do our job. Just talking to the guys we are going to come in (Tuesday) and analyze the tape before we actually meet with our coaches, because we want to figure out how we can nip this in the bud.
"We've got to be able to make teams one dimensional so we can win football games and certainly give the ball back to our offense. So up front, we've got to figure out how we can stop this one, because this will be a long year if we don't."
2. Passing game inconsistent
The Bills were in the game most of the way Monday night against the Chiefs, but their passing game was largely stuck in neutral. Josh Allen had trouble hitting his targets early and it carried through most of the game as Buffalo could never get in a rhythm with their aerial attack.
"We weren't good enough. I was not good enough," said Josh Allen. "I've got to do a better job it's plain and simple. I didn't play very good. I know that. I understand that. This team can't afford to have me play poorly. Early on, just not being as accurate with the ball as I should have been, making the right reads, making the right throws."
Near the end of the third quarter, Allen had completed just eight of his first 20 pass attempts (40%). Five of those were either overthrows, low or wide of the intended target. One of his misfires sailed out of reach of Stefon Diggs in the back left corner of the end zone where he had gained separation. It could have been a scoring play.
Allen was able to stage a late touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game as he hit Cole Beasley for an eight-yard touchdown with just over six minutes left in regulation, but the Chiefs made it a two-score game with an ensuing drive that resulted in a field goal.
"We turned it on a little too late there obviously," Allen said. "Seventeen points is not going to cut in this league. It didn't matter who we played. If that's how we play we're going to struggle to win games so it is what it is right now, we will learn from this. I'm actually super frustrated with myself and how I performed. I can't do that to this team so you know I've got to be better and I will be better."
The Bills offense got one last possession, but it ended when Allen threw another errant pass into coverage and it was intercepted by Chiefs S Nick Sorensen with 1:20 remaining.
3. Personnel changes on defense
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier gave indication last week that he'd be making changes to his defensive line rotation and stick with his four best pass rushers more often on obvious passing downs. That proved to be the case as Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson, Ed Oliver and Jerry Hughes were the primary pass rushers against the Chiefs on Monday.
The results, however, were not demonstrably better. The defense managed just one sack and four quarterback hits on Patrick Mahomes, who completed 81 percent of his passes and also escaped the pocket to extend plays and run for 36 yards.
What wasn't expected was the decision to make veteran DE Trent Murphy and DT Harrison Phillips healthy inactive players. Both were held out of the lineup Monday and the team called up DT Justin Zimmer and DE Bryan Cox Jr. from the practice squad.
Regarding the decision to sit Murphy and Phillips it sounds as though the move might be short lived.
"Those two are good players, just want to take a look at some other guys who practiced well and just see if we can change things up a little bit," McDermott said of the defensive line changes. "So, we may come right back to those guys next week and we'll see what the week holds here."
Zimmer and Cox Jr. rotated in with A.J. Epenesa and Vernon Butler as part of the second defensive line unit.
There were other lineup changes. Taron Johnson lost his starting slot cornerback role to Cam Lewis, who impressed in his first career start last week at Tennessee. Unfortunately for Lewis he suffered a wrist injury early in the game and did not return, thrusting Johnson back into the lineup.
A.J. Klein was the starting linebacker with Tremaine Edmunds for most of the game as he replaced Tyrel Dodson, who had spelled the injured Matt Milano last week. In certain third down packages, Klein was replaced by Siran Neal.