While the Bills and Chiefs are not exactly the same teams they were 14 weeks ago, it is helpful to take a look back and see how they approached each other in their early-season matchup. Buffalo’s defense had a clear objective of taking away any big plays over the top from the Chiefs’ explosive passing game. They largely succeeded. Patrick Mahomes threw for just 225 yards. Tyreek Hill caught just 3 passes for 20 yards. Unfortunately for Buffalo, the Chiefs still racked up 466 yards, including 245 on the ground.
It wasn’t necessarily that the Chiefs simply blew the Bills’ defensive line off the ball. Instead, they took advantage of all the attention Buffalo was giving to Tyreek Hill and Kansas City’s passing game. Using RPOs, motion, and misdirection (which they will definitely use in the AFC Championship Game), the Chiefs were able to open up big lanes for their running backs to glide through.
On this 31-yard run, watch how Bills defenders reacted to both the fake end-around to Tyreek Hill and the split-flow action from tight end Nick Keizer, both of which went away from the play.
The below touchdown on a pivotal 4th-and-1 in the 3rd quarter was basically the same concept, just dressed up differently. Again, watch the Bills Defense go with Hill and tight end Travis Kelce blocking away from the play.
On the below run, the Chiefs were again able to create a nice gain. This time, they did so by utilizing an RPO to stretch the defense sideline-to-sideline and then running the ball against a lighter box.
In the passing game, the Bills played lots of zone coverage meant to keep Tyreek Hill and company in front of them. While this did limit big plays over the top, it didn’t necessarily prevent the Chiefs from moving the ball or even picking up big chunks of yards through the air.
One thing defenses have to deal with against Kansas City that they don’t have to against other offenses is the combination of downfield speed and the quarterback’s ability to keep plays alive. We’ve seen Patrick Mahomes do that from the pocket, on the perimeter, or even by taking 14-yard drops to buy a few extra seconds. This gives Chiefs receivers the time to stretch the top of the coverage and create voids at the intermediate level. You could see that happen on this play in Week 6.
Watch how Tyreek Hill’s deep-over route took both deep safeties with him and left Travis Kelce wide open 20 yards downfield.
Mahomes bought himself a little extra time in the pocket to let that play develop. If he had been able to throw a better ball, Kelce would have easily picked up another 20 yards.
This is the type of thing you’ll see on Sunday. I don’t think the Bills will take a drastically different philosophical approach from their last matchup vs. the Chiefs. Kansas City’s offense has not been precise of late, so it would make sense that Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier would want to take away the deep throws and force the Chiefs to consistently sustain drives. That will likely lead to opportunities similar to the play shown above for Travis Kelce, who we anticipate being a focal point of the Chiefs’ offensive game plan against Buffalo.
I doubt that the Bills would be happy with Kansas City racking up nearly 250 rushing yards again in the AFC Championship Game. However, despite the success the Chiefs had last time, Buffalo still held them to 26 points. That was without linebacker Matt Milano and cornerback Levi Wallace. With Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s status still in doubt, it’s hard to imagine he’d have a huge impact even if he does play. It’s not difficult to envision a similar game plan with a better level of execution being enough for Buffalo, especially given how well their offense is playing.