5:00 PM EST, FOX/NFL Network – Line: Chiefs -3.5, Over/Under: 57.5
Division leaders looking to rebound from their first loss of the season clash tonight as the Buffalo Bills play host to the reigning Super Bowl Champion, Kansas City Chiefs, from Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. This particular matchup was initially intended to be contested on Thursday Night, but due to the Bills/Titans being moved from the previous Sunday to Tuesday following the latter’s outbreak of COVID-19 cases, the league deemed it necessary to move this Week 6 clash to Monday. For the Chiefs (4-1, 1st in AFC West), this is really nothing new, for it’s not the first time that their schedule has been upended due to the virus hitting an opponent; this will be the third time that they’ve played on Monday Night this season, with an earlier matchup with the New England Patriots moved to a Monday two weeks ago, which they won rather comfortably 26-10. All things considered, we’re willing to bet that Andy Reid and his Staff would much rather have the extra few days to prepare for their opponent, rather than face them on such a short week, particularly when they’re coming off their first defeat since November 10th of 2019.
That’s right folks, Kansas City’s league-best thirteen-game winning streak (dating back to last season), came to a screeching halt last Sunday at Arrowhead, where of all teams, the Las Vegas Raiders, handed them their first defeat of the campaign, 40-32. Now, we’re not trying to disrespect the Raiders, but if you took a poll as to who would be the team to indeed snap the Chiefs’ winning streak, we highly doubt that the Silver & Black would have been anywhere close to the top choice. That’s because they’ve absolutely OWNED their division rival, having won twelve of the previous fifteen meetings dating back to 2013, including seven consecutive matchups at Arrowhead, with the last loss coming in 2012, which preceded Reid’s arrival altogether. So what the hell happened, you ask? Well, this was a case in which Kansas City’s Defense was eviscerated in a multitude of ways, as the visitors outgunned them play for play downfield. Defensively, Steve Spagnuolo’s charges were gashed repeatedly, relinquishing a season-high 490 total yards, including five plays of FORTY yards or more, and it didn’t matter if it was through the air or on the ground, as Vegas rushed for 144 yards on thirty-five carries en route to possessing the football for a total of 35:17. The hosts would race out to an early 14-3 lead, only to suddenly find themselves tied 24-24 at Halftime. In the Second Half, the Offense stalled repeatedly, with the home side forced to punt on three consecutive drives before Patrick Mahomes (63.7%, 1,474 YDS, 7.23 NY/A, 13 TD, 1 INT, 87.4 QBR) was intercepted midway through the final stanza. The 2018 MVP would drive the Chiefs seventy-five yards downfield to cut the lead to 40-32 with just over four minutes to play, but would not regain possession as the Raiders ran out the remainder of the clock. In the end, Kansas City amassed 413 total yards, with Mahomes completing 22-of-43 passes for 340 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but repeatedly struggled to find anything downfield as the visiting side decided to stop blitzing him and drop additional defenders into coverage. Rookie Tailback, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (98 TCH, 513 YDS, 5.2 Y/T, 1 TD), logged eighty yards from scrimmage on just thirteen touches, while Pro-Bowl Receiver, Tyreek Hill (22 REC, 364 YDS, 16.5 Y/R, 4 TD), added ninety-three yards from scrimmage on six touches, including a ten-yard touchdown run early in the Second Quarter. However, the speedster was shutout in the Second Half, as Mahomes was forced to check down frequently to All-Pro Tight End, Travis Kelce (32 REC, 405 YDS, 12.7 Y/R, 3 TD), who hauled in eight catches for 108 yards and a touchdown on twelve targets. Indeed it was an afternoon of firsts for Mahomes and the defending champions, with the Quarterback tossing his first interception of the campaign, while marking the first instance that he had lost a game by more than a touchdown, a remarkable streak that dates back to 2016 when he was plying his trade in college at Texas Tech. The 25-year old is now 13-2 against AFC West opponents, with the only other defeat coming against the Los Angeles Chargers back in 2018.
“It caught up with us today… We’ve got to go back and really look at ourselves in the mirror and not rely on these crazy plays where I’m scrambling around and throwing these shots and just execute the offense the way that it’s called and run the way it’s supposed to be run. If we do that, we’ll be a hard team to stop.”Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback on his team’s loss to the Raiders
Following such a shocking loss, the question that has been frequently asked throughout the week is whether or not a valid blueprint towards stopping the Chiefs Offense has been provided. Since Mahomes became the Starting Quarterback in 2018, the only team to keep him without a touchdown in a half has been the New England Patriots, who have done it on three occasions, including their previous meeting this season. Of course, that’s as much of an outlier as anything, for nobody else in the league has the luxury of Bill Belichick curating their gameplan, but there are some aspects of the Raiders’ performance over the weekend that can be applied by other teams down the road. First and foremost, opponents seriously need to STOP blitzing him; through five games, Mahomes has been blitzed forty times parlaying to being pressured on 24.8% of his passing attempts, which is up from 20.8% in 2019, completing an astonishing 70.0% of his passes for 391 yards on 9.77 yards per attempt, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Furthermore, he’s moved the chains on twenty-one occasions when blitzed, with the most damning statistic of all being that he has yet to even be sacked when opponents have sent extra rushers. Las Vegas, and Los Angeles before them, found success in employing Cover-2 and Cover-3 shells, with the former even going as far to drop Defensive Linemen into coverage, with eight different players roaming behind the line of scrimmage. This forces Kansas City to take shorter throws leading to longer drives that require far more plays. The NFL has long been a copycat league, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of their opponent adopt this gameplan.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs aren’t the only team that is fresh off getting humbled for the first time in 2020, as the Bills (4-1, 1st in AFC East) come into this matchup licking their wounds as well following a rare Tuesday Night affair with the Tennessee Titans. For all intents and purposes, Buffalo were the prohibitive favorites against the Titans, who due to that aforementioned COVID-19 outbreak were unable to practice at their facility, or even in groups elsewhere, for sixteen days. Sure, you can argue that “well, they’re rested”, but the fact is that Tennessee was unable to properly gameplan for Tuesday’s contest, certainly not in the same manner that Sean McDermott & Co were. Essentially, it was a perceived competitive advantage that you would expect the visitors to take full advantage of, but that simply was NOT the case as the hosts embarrassed them in a 42-16 drubbing that revealed just how far away this emerging young team remains.
Yes, it’s only one loss, but it’s impossible to walk away from Tuesday’s defeat and feel encouraged by what you witnessed from the Bills, who were manhandled by the Titans, particularly during the Second Half in which they were outscored 21-6. This was a case in which the box score didn’t tell the proper story; Buffalo owned a plethora of statistical advantages including total yards (370-334), passing yards (285-195), third downs (13-of-17 to 6-of-10), and time of possession (32:24), but were completely undone on the strength of their own mistakes, committing three costly turnovers. The first came on Josh Allen’s (69.3%, 1,589 YDS, 7.63 NY/A, 14 TD, 3 INT, 86.8 QBR) first pass of the night, which was tipped into the air and intercepted by Cornerback, Malcolm Butler, granting the Titans the football at the Bills’ 16-yard line. Two plays later, the hosts were up 7-0. Later towards the end of the Third Quarter and trailing 21-10, Allen was picked off again but Butler, who returned the ball sixty-eight yards, setting up yet another Tennessee touchdown four plays later. The third-year Quarterback would strike back though, leading the visitors ninety yards downfield in seventeen plays, finding Tailback, T.J. Yeldon (10 CAR, 70 YDS, 7.0 Y/A, 0 TD), twenty-two yards into the back of the end zone to cut the lead to 28-16, though the two-point conversion would fail. And that’s when the affair completely fell apart for the Bills, as their Defense allowed the home side to march right back down the field and score a touchdown, followed by a lost fumble on the ensuing kickoff return, which set up yet another touchdown for the Titans, effectively killing off the game. It was an uneven performance for Allen, who completed 26-of-41 passes for 263 yards, with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions apiece, while being largely relegated within the pocket, rushing for just eighteen yards on four attempts. Marquee Offseason acquisition, Stefon Diggs (36 REC, 509 YDS, 14.1 Y/R, 2 TD), hauled in ten receptions for 106 yards on sixteen targets, but was kept out of the end zone, as McDermott’s own Defense simply couldn’t amount the requisite resistance to do the same to the Titans; they were trampled for 139 yards and three touchdowns on thirty-four carries, though it wasn’t necessarily reigning Rushing Champion, Derrick Henry (19 CAR, 57 YDS, 2 TD), that killed them, but Ryan Tannehill, with the Quarterback consistently breaking containment and rushing for forty-two yards and a score on only four attempts. Buffalo was also flagged ten times for a loss of fifty-six yards, making Tuesday’s defeat a dissertation in shooting thyself in thy foot.
“Doing things that you can’t do and expecting to win a football game — that’s what it boils down to… I’ll give credit where credit is do, they were ready to go. We beat ourselves probably more than anything, and that’s something you can’t do.”Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills Head Coach on his team’s 42-16 loss at the Titans
So where do the Bills go from here, you ask? Has Tennessee provided the rest of the league with a blueprint to attack them moving forward? Well, that sentiment may be a bit pretentious for Buffalo had been exhibiting some warts throughout their perfect start, but managed to cover them up in a variety of ways. First and foremost, as much as the Offense has developed into a big play machine, they have struggled throughout 2020 to find consistent success on the ground, where they’ve ranked towards the bottom the NFL in a number of categories, including rushing attempts (24.4), yards (93.8), and yards per carry (3.8). Allen has thus far played a huge role in their rushing attack, averaging 20.2 yards per game himself, though the rest of the Backfield has been uninspiring; Sophomore Tailback, Devin Singletary (61 CAR, 238 YDS, 3.9 Y/A, 1 TD), has struggled in his first full season as the starter, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, while his rookie companion, Zack Moss (17 CAR, 48 YDS, 2.8 Y/A, 0 TD), has been even worse at 2.8 yards per attempt. Similar to what you saw the Raiders do to the Chiefs, forcing Allen & Co to string together long drives appears to be the way to attack them. Defensively, Buffalo has been beat up throughout the season, and as a result haven’t come close to the staunch unit that they were over the past three seasons of McDermott’s reign in Western New York. The Bills are giving up 28.4 points per game (21st Overall) on 371.8 total yards (17th Overall), including 263.2 yards against the pass (24th Overall) on 6.7 net yards per attempt (20th Overall) and another 108.6 yards versus the run (12th Overall) on 4.3 yards per carry (15th Overall). However, it’s the situational areas in which they’ve really struggled, allowing opponents to convert 50.9% of their third downs (30th Overall) and hit paydirt on 71.4% of their attempts in the red zone (26th Overall), with that last figure really apparent in the loss at Tennessee, where the hosts were 6-of-6 inside the red zone. Starter Linebacker, Matt Milano (Hamstring), and Cornerback, Tre’Davious White (Shoulder), both missed the affair, while the likes of Linebacker, Tremaine Edmunds (Shoulder), and Defensive Linemen, Mario Addison (Knee), Jerry Hughes (ankle), have all been slowed by nagging ailments.