HomeFootball DirtBuffalo and Josh Allen face end of an era after devastating loss

Buffalo and Josh Allen face end of an era after devastating loss

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The Buffalo Bills were supposed to win this time. They were at home, forcing Patrick Mahomes to play the first true road playoff game of his career. They got almost every favorable call, epitomizing the definition of home cooking with referees seemingly not unsympathetic to Buffalo’s pro football woes. They got every bounce, with the football gods clearly trying to throw them a bone. They had the quarterback, Josh Allen, hellbent on avenging the finest performance of his already Hall-of-Fame-caliber career with a Bills team that seemed more than worthy of a championship. To defeat the Kansas City Chiefs now, the NFL’s indefatigable Kaiju, who always takes a few skyscrapers on its way crashing down, would’ve been perfect symbolism. It would’ve been the Bills putting themselves on the doorstep of a Super Bowl by overcoming the one opponent usually standing in the way. It would’ve meant everything to a Western New York region obsessed with its beloved football team. Instead, the Bills fell short. Again. In the most devastating way imaginable. Again. And even with a 27-year-old quarterback in his prime, it’s hard to imagine Buffalo will ever get another golden opportunity like this. Again. “Losing sucks. Losing to them, losing to anybody.” – Josh Allen

The Bills have had postseason vengeance with the Chiefs on their minds for nearly two years, but 2023 felt a bit more urgent. Fresh off a different brutal postseason defeat, the onus was on Sean McDermott’s team to prove it wasn’t a paper tiger destined to be torn apart the moment the games became sudden death. While Stefon Diggs is still a fine playmaker, fears that he would hit a wall as he neared 30 were not unfounded. There was a reason there was incessant clamoring for the Bills to find a legitimate No. 2 receiver. The Bills’ defense was laden with star power, but the long-term commitments weren’t grandiose or overwhelming. They were balanced, giving Buffalo an ideal complement on both sides of the ball. Still, that balance wouldn’t last forever, adding an extra tinge of pressure for a team chomping at the bit to win now. When push came to shove, the Bills never answered the call in any of these facets. Tonight the Bills: – both rushed & passed for 180+ yds– had 0 giveaways & took 0 sacks– had < 30 penalty yds– had 35:00+ TOP– had 5 separate 10+ play drives No other NFL team in the Super Bowl era has done all that in the same game (reg or post). They still ended up losing.

McDermott’s Bills let a shaky Chiefs team hang around all night. Buffalo accumulated nearly 200 yards rushing, almost doubled up Kansas City in time of possession, and made fewer mistakes in every meaningful category. Yet it was the Chiefs who held a tenuous 27-24 lead before kicker Tyler Bass added double meaning to the phrase “wide right.” It was the Chiefs who were much more prepared for a nail-biting crunch time that illustrates the chasm between these two franchises. McDermott had his Bills ready to put the Chiefs’ backs against the wall, and they did, but it still wasn’t enough. The biggest difference between the Chiefs and Bills is not Mahomes and Allen. We haven’t had as much of a 1A and 1B at quarterback since Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The hype is warranted; we see it every time they square off. The two superstars are even on paper. No, no. The main distinction between the Chiefs and Bills is how the two quarterback’s star playmakers show up in climactic games. A lesser-power Travis Kelce scored two touchdowns against Buffalo despite being the only clear receiving threat the defense should worry about. By contrast, as the only receiving threat the Chiefs’ defense should’ve concerned itself with, Stefon Diggs let a picture-perfect 65-yard bomb go through his hands late in the fourth quarter to punctuate an invisible three-catch, 21-yard performance. Kelce is widely regarded as one of the greatest postseason performers in NFL history. You can nail him down as a lock to come through for his quarterback, bar none. Diggs, meanwhile, has now been a complete non-factor in each of the Bills’ last three season-ending losses. He hasn’t caught more than four passes in any of these instances. His consistent disappearing act as the Bills leave the playoff field is no coincidence.

The Bills’ defense presents a challenging quandary, but only because it was so decimated. Star linebacker Matt Milano, former All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White, and difference-making pass-rusher Jordan Phillips missed most of the year on injured reserve. After a knee ailment suffered last season, Von Miller was a shell of himself, losing that trademark “bend” around the edge that made him a mainstay in the nightmares of offensive linemen. In theory, the Bills would’ve performed better if they were healthier on defense. In practice, Buffalo could only hold it together for so long. Because the Chiefs, even with an anemic offense, were built perfectly to exploit these sorts of absences. Sean McDermott said they didn’t play well enough in two phases of the game: Defense and special teams Said the offense moved the ball and played well. “But overall we didn’t do enough defensively to impact the game the way we should have.”

These Bills’ fatal flaws are more dire than you might think. Ironically, it’s all thanks to their talisman quarterback. The 2023 season was the last year Josh Allen was “affordable” on his rookie contract. After holding a manageable $18.6 million salary cap hit, that number skyrockets to $47 million in 2024. Currently, per Over The Cap, Buffalo has just under $44 million in salary cap space. Do the math. Tough roster decisions are likely on the way, and the Bills are otherwise effectively locked into their current roster. Outside of lucking into several rookie sensations at once, the Bills have no choice but to just … run it back. That probably means more McDermott, even if his persistent postseason failures and leadership in the crunch leave much to be desired. That probably means another year of relying too much on Diggs, a receiver who disappears under the brightest lights and will almost certainly start losing a step in his 30s. There should be more optimism for the defense, considering that whole health elephant in the room, but it’s not a particularly young unit. If the Bills’ defense also runs it back, hoping for more injury luck, there will be six starters sitting in their 30s. Football is a young man’s game. Not everyone will find the fountain of youth here. That’s not how it works, nor will it ever be. The Bills’ loss to the Chiefs was not devastating because it called back to other infamous moments of heartbreak. It was devastating because this was the Bills’ best shot at a Super Bowl, at least for a long while. This was the weakest the Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs have ever been, with the rest of the AFC not being much to write home about, either. This was it, and the Bills still couldn’t get over the hump. It’s really hard to imagine they ever will.

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