1 – Taron Johnson comes up clutch
Yes, the All-Pro Von Miller came up big late in the game and did what he was signed to do for the Bills with a pair of quarterback takedowns on two of Kansas City's last three possessions, but nickel corner Taron Johnson has turned in a few big plays in his time in a Bills uniform too.
After the Bills offense put them in front 24-20, it was on the defense to preserve the lead with 1:04 remaining and the Chiefs stocked with a pair of timeouts. Following a defensive holding call on 1st-and-10 at their own 25, Kansas City had a new 1st-and-10 at their 30.
As Patrick Mahomes was flushed out to his right by Miller, Matt Milano triggered to close down the width of the passing lane from his underneath coverage position. Mahomes tried to fire a sidearm pass out to rookie WR Skyy Moore, who was running left to right across the field.
Taron Johnson, peeking into the backfield at Mahomes, peeled off his coverage assignment of JuJu Smith-Schuster and jumped Moore's route to make a leaping interception at the Chiefs' 32-yard line with 56 seconds left. It was a wholly instinctive play at the most critical time in the game.
"We were playing zone and he read it perfectly," said Jordan Poyer of Johnson. "I told him that was one of the greatest plays that I have seen on the field. The situation, the moment, that was just a hell of a play for this team."
"You've got to trust your instincts," said head coach Sean McDermott of Johnson's gigantic play. "We talked a little bit about it before the game and these guys prepare all week. They work hard and then that's where we've got to let it flow and trust your gut. Trust your instincts."
Johnson did and was rewarded with his first interception of the season and the eighth of his career. Buffalo's offense came on the field and ran out the rest of the clock to seal the four-point victory. For Johnson's teammates, who have seen him return a 51-yard interception for a score on Sunday Night Football and return a 101-yard interception for a touchdown in the playoffs, it's no longer a surprise.
"Taron has been a guy who's been in the system a long time, who we all trust," said Poyer. "We all know he's going to go out there and make plays. Nobody played perfect today and it was just always, 'Next play, next play, next play.' And at the end of the day, he came up with the biggest play of the game and allowed us to win the game."
"Taron Johnson is a hell of a player," said Stefon Diggs. "I see him during the week just really working on his craft. That's a guy that you can trust to be in the right spot at the right time. I told him he was going to get (an interception) earlier in the week, so I'm Miss Cleo obviously."
2 – Allen-Diggs deliver in crunch time
After their first two possessions in the fourth quarter failed to move the ball into scoring range, Buffalo's passing game went to their most reliable combination. Facing a 4th-and-1 at their own 33-yard line it was time for the Bills' two most prolific talents to take over the game.
Allen took a sneak up the middle for two yards to get a fresh set of downs. Each of the next seven plays either featured Allen keeping the ball himself and gaining yards with his legs or throwing the ball to Diggs to convert plays into first downs.
"Yeah, just trusting him, just trying to move him around and get him in different spots," said Allen of Diggs. "The Chiefs were doing a good job on defense of switching up their calls. But when you get to that point of the game, you've got to trust the guys that you rock with. And he is who he is for a reason. He works his tail off and does all the right things. We love him for that. But it took 11 guys on that field though."
On the play after the fourth down conversion, Allen hit Diggs for a five-yard completion. He then scrambled himself for a three-yard pickup to set up 3rd-and-2 at the Buffalo 43. Allen dropped back and looked for Diggs, who came back to the ball for a relatively easy 11-yard completion and ran out of bounds as well to stop the clock.
After an incomplete pass to Diggs, Allen fired a 2nd-and-10 pass into a tight window where Diggs pulled in a pass between a pair of defenders for an 18-yard pickup and another first down at the Kansas City 28 with two minutes remaining.
It's one thing for a quarterback to say he trusts a receiver implicitly. But Allen put that belief into action and for Diggs it actually calms him.
"It actually gives me a level of comfort just because I put a lot of time in as far as with my craft and what I'm trying to do not only for the team, but for myself," said Diggs' of his quarterback's faith in him. "Pushing myself, challenging myself and in those moments, you want the game to be on you. You want your quarterback to trust you. So, it actually gives me a level of comfort and it puts me in a different space mentally that I'm out here for a purpose. I'm out here for a reason, and he's counting on me and I'm ready."
Allen then took a 1st-and-10 snap and took a designed run on a sweep out to the right with center Mitch Morse running traffic in front of him. Buffalo's signal caller then leaped over safety Deon Bush and went out of bounds after a 16-yard gain to the Chiefs' 12-yard line. After he took a two-yard loss on an inside carry, the Bills had a 2nd-and-12 at the Kansas City 14.
Everyone in the stadium believed the ball was going to Diggs. So too did the Chiefs as he drew extra attention on the underneath option route, giving Dawson Knox the opportunity to win against one-on-one coverage on a corner route. His well-run route and an absolute dart from Allen gave Buffalo the go-ahead points needed for the victory.
"We see it every single game, every quarter," said Dawson Knox of the Allen and Diggs combination. "Those two making plays where it's almost not surprising at this point. I mean, they make incredible plays every game, but we're so used to it now, it's like, 'Oh there's Josh and Stef making another incredible play.' And you know Josh hurdling people yet again. It scares me. It works so yeah… it's fun being teammates with those guys."
Diggs finished as the game's leading receiver with 10 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown, while Allen had 361 yards of total offense rushing and passing along with three touchdown passes in the victory.
3 – Bills stand atop the AFC at the bye
It'll be a lot easier for the Bills to relax their bodies and their brains during the bye week following Sunday's victory. That's because at 5-1 the Bills sit atop the AFC conference standings. Buffalo is the only AFC club with five victories through the first six weeks of the season.
The players are all too aware that there are still 11 more regular season games to be played, but this is about as good as their first stretch before the bye week could have gone.
"I honestly didn't even know that until now," said Dawson Knox of Buffalo's perch atop the AFC. "Obviously, it's great to be on top of the conference, but what will enjoy this one for 24 hours and then move on to the next one."
"This is my 12th year in the league. There's a lot that can happen between now and then," said Von Miller. "But I tell you what, tonight we're going to celebrate this one. We've got a bye week coming up. We'll debrief and see some of the things that we did good so far this season. Some of the things that we didn't do so good, and you're ready for a really good Green Bay after the bye."
"We've got a long way to go, but it is nice to get a win, any win going into the bye," said McDermott. "It's hard to sit two weeks on a bye with a loss. It's hard to sit one week on a loss, let alone two. So, my family will appreciate this win in more ways than one because they won't have to put up with a miserable Dad all week."
The head-to-head victory over the Chiefs gives them a direct tiebreaker advantage should the two clubs be tied in overall record. The Bills know it's too early to talk playoff positioning, but the team did set a goal after last season of having the postseason run through Buffalo.
"We're just trying to be playoff caliber and it's the standard that coach McDermott sets. Every game is big in the NFL," said Josh Allen. "It doesn't matter if you're playing a team that's 4-1 or 1-4. Any given Sunday, Monday or Thursday any team can win when you're on the field. These guys are professional football players for a reason. Everybody's good. So yeah, it's on to the next one again. We've got to turn our attention towards the next week."
There's no way to predict it now but come season's end this win could go a long way in determining who secures the number one playoff seed in the AFC and home field advantage come the postseason.
"We do know the importance of a home playoff game," said Knox. "It's a testament to their fans here in Kansas City. It's a great home field advantage for them. And they're so loud that we have to go silent count. Communication is really hard, which is a whole extra level of difficulty, but we know that in Buffalo, it's a whole different level. So, we want to do everything we can to get home playoff games."
Check out the best sights from the sideline and locker room following the four-point win over the Chiefs in Kansas City.