The Bills’ ride this season has come to an end. The AFC Championship stayed in Kansas City with the Chiefs as Buffalo lost 38-24.
By now, that needs little explanation. But how about some context? With 2020 in history books, let’s hand out some marks one last time.
Here’s Bills Wire’s final report card for Buffalo in their AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs:
Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) . Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
We'll get to it, but quarterback Josh Allen was not put in a place to succeed very often. Still, he deserved plenty of criticism as well. When Allen did get time to pass, a couple of times it seemed like he was almost surprised by it and got too excited and his passes were off the mark. Most of the time it was pressure right in his face causing him to miss or force passes into tight coverage. The only led to balls going off the hands of Kansas City defenders. Passing, Allen was 28-for-48 for 287 yards and an interception, which ironically enough wasn't on him as Stefon Diggs tipped the pass. Allen was also both good and bad with his legs. He had 88 yards rushing on seven carries, but he also lost a ridiculous 53 yards on four sacks. At some point he has to learn to just go down.
Running back: C-
Bills running back T.J. Yeldon. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
This is probably a bad thing, but TJ Yeldon was Buffalo's best running back. He had a nice 20-yard grab to give the Bills offense some life when they otherwise seemed dead. Yeldon also had a decent seven-yard run up the right sideline. But even he wasn't perfect in limited work as he missed a key block on a sack. Devin Singletary was the featured back, but this was probably the cherry on top of a sophomore slump of a season for him. The Bills' offensive line is not a good run-blocking unit, but his 2.8 yards per carry came down to his bad vision, too. The best running play by the Bills truthfully came by a wide receiver when Isaiah McKenzie moved the chains on fourth down.
Wide receiver: C-
Beasley #11 of the Bills. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
The only thing keeping the Bills wide receiver's heads above water was Cole Beasley. Not only did he lead the Bills with seven catches and 88 yards, he did something when the game was in striking distance. Did anyone else? Yeah, Diggs had six catches for 77 yards but 34 of those came on one play when the game was over. Among others who were far too quiet and not giving Allen anywhere to go with the ball were John Brown (2 catches, 24 yards) and Gabriel Davis (2-9).
Tight end: A-
Dawson Knox #88 of the Bills. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Dawson Knox missed on a block off the edge on an early run by Singletary. Aside from that, Knox came up big as a playmaker... perhaps for the first time all season. On eight targets, Knox had six catches and Buffalo's only touchdown when the game mattered. He also moved the chains on fourth down and was a great option to have on play-action passes. Knox essentially appeared to be what the Chiefs were willing to give the Bills on several occasions. Too bad Buffalo didn't involve him more.
Offensive line: F
Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17). Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
There was distinctly one time in the second half that Allen had enough time to completely and calmly just stand in the pocket and not look pressured (naturally on this play, no one got open). One time... at least while the game wasn't completely over. Usually we're able to give Buffalo's offensive line an average grade based on strong pass protection and poor run blocking. Simply put: Nothing went right here for the Bills. Kudos for standing up Allen late, but Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano were among guys letting the Chiefs' front-four, namely Chris Jones and Frank Clark, have a field day. Dion Dawkins also took a false start penalty right as the Bills were pushing into Chiefs territory and he was beat, specifically by Derrick Nnadi. All around bad game.
Defensive line: D+
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
If we're weighing this a 50/50 thing for the Bills defensive line in terms of how they did vs. the pass and how they did vs. the run... it was a pretty good effort against the Chiefs' rushing attack. Not a 245-yard outing on the ground this time and KC's running backs actually only had 59 yards. But this pass rush was brutal to watch. Mahomes was sacked once by Jerry Hughes as he forced him out of bounds, but that lost no yards. Mahomes had far too much time to work for four quarters. Ed Oliver had a solid tackle for loss against the run, but where was the pass-rushing expert the Bills drafted in the middle? Their recent top-rookie, AJ Epenesa, had a clear path on Mahomes who just side stepped him and extended a drive on third down on a pass to Tyreek Hill which went for 33 yards. Mahomes was also all but brought down by Mario Addison early in the game, but Mahomes got away from that one... while Addison then disappeared for the rest of the game.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Travis Kelce had 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. The guy abused Buffalo's linebackers without Matt Milano in Week 6, and then did so again with him in the lineup in the AFC title game. That's not to say it was all on Milano. Buffalo's defensive scheme was brutal and just gave Kelce every short pass, but then Milano and Tremaine Edmunds allowed chunks of yards from there. Milano, like Epenesa, also had a clear shot on Mahomes on third down which turned into a completion down field after he was side-stepped. Against the run, sure, they mostly got the job done. Then again, in terms of the Bills run defense overall (not just the linebackers), KC did have two rushing scores.
Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Safety Jordan Poyer did, believe it or not, have an awesome tackle on third down to hold the Chiefs to a field goal. As crazy as this sounds, cornerback Taron Johnson even had a red zone pass breakup on Kelce. Boy, were those plays few and far between. Hill's 71-yard catch and run pretty much sums up the day he and the Chiefs offense had against Buffalo's secondary. He carved them up and no one could make a stop. Tre'Davious White was not an All-Pro and the only thing keeping him from being abused the entire game was a dropped pass on the Chiefs' opening drive by Hill. White also took penalties and had Kelce making grabs against him as well. As crazy enough as it seems, Levi Wallace had an open-field tackle on Kelce on the first play of the game. Legitimately from that moment, it all was downhill.
Special teams: A-
Bills running back Taiwan Jones (25). Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Taiwan Jones had a hell of a recovery on a muffed punt. Andre Roberts essentially had no work to do as a returner. Corey Bojorquez averaged 49.3 yards per punt and placed two of them inside the Chiefs’ 20-yard line. Tyler Bass was excellent, hitting two 51-yard kicks. He did miss an extra point, though. That's what keeps this grade outside of an A. Congrats to the Bills, who can proudly say they did win this phase of the game.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott. Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The Bills offense wasn't good, but it was not on Brian Daboll much. The offensive coordinator did get Knox involved which was creative and even extended drives on fourth down with his play calls. Daboll was not out on the field and failing to get open. Granted, he could've maybe schemed up some quicker passing plays or screens... but it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference. The ugly game coaching came on behalf of Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier. McDermott essentially cost his team the game by not even pretending to want to go for it on fourth down against a high-profile offense. McDermott and Frazier also schemed up a defense that would allow the Chiefs to have whatever they wanted underneath, which turned into huge yards. You know... the exact same thing that happened in Week 6? And on top of that, after seeing a 21-point second quarter? The Bills just continued to allow that to happen after halftime. The Bills' coaching staff let the team down... perhaps for the first time all season, at the worst possible time.