There was plenty to take away from Buffalo’s 38-20 primetime thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs. The biggest? Aggression.
For 20 years, the Bills fell victim to more aggressive opponents. Offenses that gobbled yards in chunks and defenses that teed off on quarterbacks with little fear. In fact, if there is one criticism of the Sean McDermott era, it’s that he often allows opponents to dictate the pace in big games.
The Jacksonville playoff game. Last year’s home game against the Patriots, which Buffalo was lucky to win. Home wins against the Steelers and Ravens last year. Both losses to Kansas City. All games that allowed the opponent to control how the game was played.
Not on Sunday.
Whether McDermott saw his miscalculations or he finally felt his players matured enough to be the aggressors, he finally pulled the trigger. Josh Allen and the offense hammered the Chiefs with the run early and then began to swing for the fences.
Allen averaged a whopping 12.1 yards per attempt — he averaged 6.7 in the first four games combined — and netted 21 yards on average with his 15 completions. Allen joined San Francisco’s Jimmy Grappolo (17) as the only quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 yards with fewer than 20 completions this season.
Gone was the conservative offense and keepaway attempts to limit possessions for Patrick Mahomes. No, the Bills took it to the Kansas City defense. All four first-half scoring drives took less than 4 minutes, while three of them were less than 3.
Even the final drive in the fourth quarter was not the typical hand-it-off-and-hope-to-get-a-first-down drive fans have become accustomed to. They had intent to score on the drive and it happened to take 7 minutes, 51 seconds off the clock in the process.
Defensively, the Bills found ways to avoid gaping holes and put pressure on Mahomes without sending the house. In fact, the Buffalo took a page out of Pittsburgh’s Week 1 playbook. The Bills played two-high safeties all night to take away deep passes and were able to get pressure by rushing four.
Perhaps not an overly aggressive game plan, but one in which the more disciplined team would win. Buffalo was sound in its zones, while Mahomes got antsy in the pocket and was not always patient with easy throws.
Still, there was no conceding the run to stop Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The Bills played the Chiefs as if they were equals, rather than hoping their plan would work and they could steal a win.
Viewers were force-fed graphics of the snap count for defensive linemen all game and the national narrative has been how the Bills retooled the defense to contend with the Chiefs. Sure, Buffalo invested in its defense and first-round pick Gregory Rousseau had a big interception, but the personnel was largely the same as last year. It was simply used differently.
Yes, it is five games into the season, but Sunday’s version of the Bills is a team fans can legitimately believe is a Super Bowl contender. The 13-3 record and divisional championship last year looked good, but there was no question the Chiefs were a cut above as the best team in the AFC.
There is a legitimate race for the top spot in the AFC for a change. The Chargers and Ravens look quite good. Don’t count out the Chiefs and Browns, either. But the Bills may be at the top of the heap.
GNN Sports reporter Nick Sabato can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.