Sports

How Chiefs-Bills Became One of the Greatest Games in NFL History

Patrick Mahomes celebrates on the field with his arms outstretched.
Good game, Patrick Mahomes. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Three lead changes and 25 points in the last two minutes of regulation. A ludicrous last-gasp drive to force overtime. The NFL’s two most exciting quarterbacks playing flawlessly down the stretch. One of the best games in football history decided by the only mistake that the Bills’ Josh Allen made all night: calling tails before the overtime coin toss.

The NFL’s sudden-death overtime rule—which forced Allen to watch from the bench as the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes led his team to a 42–36 victory in the AFC divisional round—is dumb, and should be changed immediately. One of the strongest arguments for reform: In the hours after such an incredible game, the focus should be on the players that made that magic happen, not a metal disc that got tossed in the air by a guy in black-and-white stripes.

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So, if you want to read more about why the OT rule needs to go, feel free to do so on basically every website in existence. I’d prefer to revel in everything else that happened down the stretch. Here, in chronological order, are the 13 most important, spectacular, and befuddling moments in the fourth quarter and overtime, one for every second that Buffalo couldn’t quite run off the clock.

Tyreek Hill’s 45-yard punt return. 11:44 to go when the play started, fourth quarter. Chiefs 23, Bills 21. After a Buffalo penalty, Hill gets a second chance at a runback. Two spin moves later, the Chiefs are in the red zone.

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Credit to punter Matt Haack for kind of slowing Hill down!

Dane Jackson tackles Jerick McKinnon on third-and-1. 9:44 to go, fourth quarter. Chiefs 23, Bills 21. Kansas City gets tricky, shifting Mahomes out as a receiver, putting tight end Blake Bell (a college quarterback at Oklahoma) under center, and having Bell pitch the ball to McKinnon around right end. The play goes nowhere, thanks to Jackson’s shoestring tackle. The Chiefs have to settle for a field goal. And that does it—there will be no more defensive triumphs for the rest of the game.

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Allen scrambles on fourth-and-4. 2:48 to go, fourth quarter. Chiefs 26, Bills 21. The most impressive athletic feat in the entire game. Kansas City’s Melvin Ingram humiliates Buffalo right tackle Spencer Brown with an inside move, and pressures Allen one second after the ball is snapped. If Allen goes down here, the game is probably over. He doesn’t. The Bills quarterback evades Ingram, then gets away from another defensive lineman. Whew! At this point he’s all the way back at the Chiefs’ 43—17 yards from the first down marker. Not an issue. Allen gets around a third Kansas City rusher, makes a pump fake, and scampers down the sideline to extend the Bills’ season.

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Allen to Gabriel Davis, 27-yard touchdown on fourth-and-13. 2:00 to go, fourth quarter. Bills 27, Chiefs 26. After a brief intermission to subdue an idiot on the field, Allen finds Davis for his third touchdown grab of the game. In real time, it looked like a blown coverage. In reality, Chiefs cornerback Mike Hughes got his ankles broken, like some poor schmo in an AAU basketball mixtape. Have mercy, Gabriel Davis!

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Allen to Stefon Diggs, 2-point conversion. 1:54 to go, fourth quarter. Bills 29, Chiefs 26. OK, maybe this is the most impressive athletic feat in the entire game. Yeesh.

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Mahomes to Hill, 64-yard touchdown pass. 1:13 to go, fourth quarter. Chiefs 33, Bills 29 after extra point. The Bills had the NFL’s top-ranked total defense and pass defense. Against the Patriots in the wild-card round, Buffalo safety Micah Hyde made one of the most athletic interceptions you’ll ever see. On this play, Hill makes Hyde and everyone else in the Bills secondary look like they’re standing still.

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Please note that Hill promotes world peace as he strolls into the end zone. Also note that the Bills’ best tackler, punter Matt Haack, is not on the field.

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Allen to Davis, 19-yard touchdown. 0:17 to go, fourth quarter. Bills 36, Chiefs 33 after extra point. Allen got the drive started with a 28-yard completion to Davis. He then found Davis for a 12-yard completion, and followed that with a 16-yarder to, shockingly, not Gabriel Davis. (Emmanuel Sanders, take a bow.) Then, with the clock dwindling, and a field goal not an option, Allen connected with his favorite target for a fourth touchdown pass, one that what would surely be the game-winner …

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Tyler Bass kicks off, touchback. 0:13 to go, fourth quarter. Bills 36, Chiefs 33. This banal play, it turned out, probably cost Buffalo the game. If Bass had squibbed the ball, and forced Kansas City into a return, the Chiefs would’ve squandered a handful of seconds they couldn’t afford to lose. Instead, the Bills kicker—on his coaches’ instructions, no doubt—booted the ball into the end zone, giving Mahomes the ball at the 25-yard line with no time ticking off.

Mahomes to Hill for 19 yards. 0:13 to go, fourth quarter. Bills 36, Chiefs 33. The Bills’ soft coverage and Hill’s blazing speed allow the Chiefs to pick up a huge chunk of yardage in just five seconds. Uhhhhh …

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Mahomes to Travis Kelce for 25 yards. 0:08 to go, fourth quarter. Bills 36, Chiefs 33. The Bills’ soft coverage and Kelce’s honestly-not-super-duper-blazing speed allow the Chiefs to pick up a huge chunk of yardage in just five seconds. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh …

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Chiefs call timeout. 0:03 to go, fourth quarter. Bills 36, Chiefs 33. Given that Kansas City head coach Andy Reid is notorious for his postseason clock management issues, it’s worth noting that the Chiefs had all three timeouts in their pocket going into the final drive of regulation, allowing them to make use of the middle of the field. No timeouts? No chance for a comeback. Nice job, Andy Reid!

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Harrison Butker makes 49-yard field goal. 0:03 to go, fourth quarter. Bills 36, Chiefs 36. Butker, who’d missed a field goal and an extra point earlier in the game, got it right this time, becoming the fourth kicker in two days to nail a game-winning or game-tying 3-pointer as the clock hit 0:00.

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Mahomes to Kelce, 8-yard touchdown. 10:50 to go, overtime. Chiefs 42, Bills 36. After Kansas City won the coin toss going into OT, Mahomes methodically drove his team down the field, picking up 67 yards on two running plays and five passes. As the CBS cameras zoomed in on Josh Allen’s pained expression, the outcome seemed inevitable. And maybe it was. But Kelce’s game-winning, back-shoulder grab was anything but rote.

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A coin toss may have helped seal Buffalo’s fate, but this is how it finished, with a masterpiece of concentration, timing, and footwork—a classic ending for a classic game.

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