The Payments overcame their demons in a thriller in opposition to the Chiefs

It was billed because the Sport of the 12 months.

After final yr’s thrilling AFC Divisional Spherical playoff sport, the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs and the Buffalo Payments squared off Sunday in Kansas Metropolis in a conflict of two of the very best groups within the AFC. Even with all the expectations going into the sport, the competition certainly lived as much as the hype.

It simply took some time to heat up.

Whereas the assembly was was anticipated to be an offensive shoot-out, bought off to the beginning all of us anticipated.

With every group turning the soccer over within the crimson zone.

On Buffalo’s opening drive, Josh Allen and Devin Singletary didn’t execute on a pitch play, with the toss hitting the working again within the facemask and careening to the turf. Kansas Metropolis recovered the unfastened ball, taking up on their very own 9-yard line.

The Kansas Metropolis offense then put collectively an extended drive of their very own, however that stalled out when Patrick Mahomes compelled a throw into the top zone, which ended up within the fingers of rookie cornerback Kaiir Elam:

However slowly, the offenses wakened, and every group’s first-half landing spoke to the one of many bigger themes of this NFL season: The strain between defenses and offenses within the two-high world we live.

On the Chiefs’ first-half landing, which gave them a 7-3 lead, the Payments tried to maintain issues in entrance of them with a pair of deep safeties. Whereas they had been in a position to strain Mahomes with simply 4 move rushers, the quarterback was in a position to prolong the play together with his legs, deep into the down, earlier than discovering an choice downfield:

As you may see courtesy of the “dots” from Subsequent Gen Stats, the Payments drop into two-deep protection, and take a look at a stunt up entrance. Whereas the move rushers certainly strain Mahomes, he is ready to keep upright within the pocket, earlier than discovering JuJu Smith-Schuster. The receiver then takes over, breaking by way of a trio of would-be tacklers after which racing to the top zone:

Whereas Mahomes was in a position to ship in opposition to two-high for Kansas Metropolis’s first-half landing, Allen took benefit of single-high protection. As mentioned weeks in the past, offenses are going to must be affected person in opposition to two-high, however strike in opposition to single-high protection seems as quickly as they’ll.

That’s precisely what the Payments had been doing earlier within the season, and it’s precisely what they did with 22 seconds left within the half:

Once more, due to the “dots” we will see how the Chiefs spun their safeties into single-high, and as quickly as Allen recognized the protection, he snapped his eyes to the best to select up Gabe Davis, and the 2 linked for the landing to offer Buffalo the lead with 16 seconds left within the half:

It was sufficient time for Mahomes. It took 13 seconds within the AFC Divisional Spherical final January, and it was 12 seconds on this fast drive because the quarterback bought the Chiefs into vary for Harrison Butker, who transformed from 62 yards out — a brand new Chiefs file — to despatched the groups to the locker room with the rating knotted at ten:

The third quarter would supply extra scoring. After Butker missed a discipline purpose try on the opening possession of the third quarter, the groups traded touchdowns. Allen linked with Stefon Diggs from 17 yards out to offer the Payments a 17-10 lead, however the Chiefs shortly matched that, with Mahomes linking up with Mecole Hardman from simply three yards out to tie the sport at 17.

Buffalo confronted a choice on their subsequent possession, observing a 4th and three close to midfield. Sean McDermott left his offense on the sphere, and an Allen move for Diggs fell incomplete, giving the Chiefs wonderful discipline place. Mahomes and firm would accept a discipline purpose on the following possession, staking Kansas Metropolis to a 20-17 lead.

Then got here a little bit of controversy. With the Payments dealing with a third and 10 on their subsequent possession, and the gang at GEHA Subject in full voice, Allen dropped into the pocket to throw. Chris Jones broke by way of off the best edge, and whereas the quarterback tried to flee, he tumbled to the turf.

Allen burst to his really feel screaming for a flag, arguing that Jones tripped him which ought to have been a penalty. His issues had been initially waved off by the official, however when Allen noticed the replay on the scoreboard, he once more pled his case.

As soon as extra on deaf ears. However he definitely had an argument:

Kansas Metropolis took over on their very own 22-yard line, with beneath eight minutes remaining. This was maybe the second the Payments and their followers had been considering since January. May they get a cease in opposition to Mahomes in a second like this?

They bought the cease, and the participant they added to shut out drives like this one, the participant they had been maybe lacking final January, was the one to step up:

Von Miller, added within the offseason to bolster the Payments’ move rush, beats the deal with and will get to Mahomes earlier than he might goal Travis Kelce downfield, and will get the sack. As a substitute of an enormous play for the Kansas Metropolis offense, the Payments protection was coming off the sphere with the type of cease that eluded them final winter.

Now it was time for his or her offense to make a play.

It didn’t get off to a straightforward begin. The Payments confronted a 4th and inches in their very own territory early within the drive, and once more McDermott left his offense on the sphere. Allen transformed on the sneak — with an help from Davis on the push after coming in movement — to select up their preliminary first down on the drive:

Buffalo then confronted a third and a couple of with the clock working in the direction of the two-minute warning. Allen stood tall within the face of a blitz from Kansas Metropolis, hitting Diggs on a fast pace out alongside the left aspect of the sphere, popping out of a stack-slot alignment, to maneuver the chains. That completion gave Buffalo a primary down with 2:14 remaining, and the ball on the Chiefs’ 46-yard line.

Then on a 2nd and 10 proper earlier than the 2 minute warning, Allen and Diggs linked once more on a deep curl route in opposition to zone protection, getting the Payments right down to the Chiefs’ 28-yard line.

Popping out of the outing, Ken Dorsey dialed up precisely what you’d count on from one among these offenses.

Quarterback energy sweep:

Allen’s run, and hurdle, gave the Payments a primary down on the Chiefs’ 12-yard line. Now, the clock was a priority for Dorsey and the Payments. How a lot time do you wish to go away for Mahomes?

They left a minute for him, as Allen linked with Dawson Knox on an out route within the left aspect of the top zone for the landing:

In January it was 13 seconds.

Right now, it was 64 seconds. 64 seconds for the Payments to bury the reminiscences of final winter. 64 seconds to place these tales to mattress for the remainder of the season. 64 seconds to maybe inch nearer to making sure that any potential rematch could be in upstate New York, and never again at GEHA Subject.

64 seconds. 64 seconds to overlook about 13.

13 seconds later? The Payments protection had performed it:

Taron Johnson jumped a path to perfection, stepping in entrance of a throw from Mahomes meant for rookie Skyy Moore, and he secured the interception. Giving the Payments possession with 51 seconds left. And an enormous a part of the play? Miller coming off the sting and splitting a double-team, forcing Mahomes off the spot.

The participant they added within the offseason for this second, creates the strain for the Payments on the most important snap of the sport.

Buffalo was in a position to work the clock on their ensuing possession, forcing the Chiefs to burn their timeouts. However after Allen took a knee on third down, the Chiefs had been unable to cease the clock, and Buffalo secured the victory.

And shrugged off the shackles of these 13 seconds from final January, having realized their classes from final winter alongside the best way.

Are the Payments the group to beat within the AFC? Proper now, it positive seems prefer it.

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