By:  Cody Benjamin

The Chiefs got the best of the Bills in the AFC contenders’ last two meetings, first in the conference championship and then, last year, in the divisional round’s wildest shootout. But not on Sunday. Taron Johnson jumped in front of a late Patrick Mahomes pass to seal a 24-20 victory. 

Both sides started slow in the anticipated showdown, trying so hard for big plays that they ended up with red-zone turnovers. But Mahomes and Josh Allen each delivered downfield strikes as the matchup went on, with Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis and Von Miller all logging highlights to push Buffalo to 5-1 on the season.

Mahomes notably capped the first half by delivering a pair of quick strikes in the waning seconds to set up a Chiefs franchise-record 62-yard field goal by Harrison Butker that knotted the score at 10-10. He needed just 12 seconds in total to do that, a year after using the final 13 seconds of the Bills-Chiefs playoff game to set up a field goal to force overtime. Just like in that postseason game, the two sides were also tied after the first, second and third quarters.

Here are some takeaways from Sunday’s Bills-Chiefs shootout:

Why the Bills won

The biggest reason is twofold: Josh Allen, predictably, was a big-play machine more often than not; and, though it won’t get nearly as much credit, the defense made plays exactly when it needed them. Let’s start with Allen: he wasn’t very methodical out of the gate, consistently dropping 10-15 yards behind the line in hopes of striking a mega-play, even though Devin Singletary was running into open space with ease. But once Allen’s connection with Stefon Diggs picked up, the offense found its rhythm, and boy did Diggs put on a clinic out wide, finishing with 10 catches for 148 yards and a score.

Gabe Davis’ speed was also on display once more, and Allen showcased his trust to all the outlets, including Dawson Knox, with crunch-time bombs and bullets. Defensively, Taron Johnson deserves credit for jumping Mahomes’ off-balance throw into double coverage to seal the game. But Von Miller was just as pivotal, logging two sacks and keeping Mahomes on the move.

Why the Chiefs lost

It wasn’t for lack of trying; Kansas City still proved it is the king of miraculous drives, particularly at the end of the first half, when Mahomes needed all of 12 seconds to set up a team-record 62-yard field goal from Harrison Butker. Mahomes, on his own, remained a magician, leaning on the ultra-reliable Travis Kelce and the surprisingly open JuJu Smith-Schuster to always keep K.C. in the mix, if not ahead. But the QB was clearly also pressing to make plays on occasion, such as when he forced one into the end zone and got picked off by Kaiir Elam.

It didn’t help that there was no real running game in their script. Or that rookie Joshua Williams was tasked with locking down the Bills’ speedy receivers on the outside. Chiefs fans shouldn’t be overly worried considering how close this one is, as expected, but it is fair to remain skeptical of the depth of Mahomes’ receiving options because of how much rests on No. 15 and 87.

Turning point

Considering this one was back and forth from start to finish, it’s gotta be Mahomes’ second pick, when Johnson jumped the route and took advantage of the Chiefs QB trying to make something out of nothing. That interception put the ball back in Buffalo’s hands, up 24-20 after the Bills’ 12-play TD drive, and sealed the close victory for the visitors.

Play of the game

All of Allen’s big plays are worthwhile, but give it to the QB for roping his final TD to Dawson Knox. Everything about the throw, which put the Bills up for good, was textbook.

What’s next

The Bills (5-1) will rest up on their bye week before returning home Oct. 30 for a Sunday night matchup with the Packers (3-3), who got routed by the Jets in Week 6. The Chiefs (4-2), meanwhile, will hit the road for a Super Bowl LIV rematch with the 49ers (3-3), who were upset by the Falcons on Sunday.