Brock Purdy is staring down the teeth of another third-down blitz from the Kansas City Chiefs. He needs 4 yards to prolong the drive and not leave the fate of the game to the San Francisco defense stopping Patrick Mahomes.
Purdy knows the blitz is coming. The 49ers know the blitz is coming. CBS analyst Tony Romo knew the blitz was coming. And yet somehow, Kansas City’s best defensive player, Chris Jones, wasn’t blocked.
Jones forced Purdy to release the ball long before he was ready, Mahomes led a touchdown drive and the Chiefs won their third Super Bowl in five years. It was a silly error, one that shouldn’t happen, especially at that moment.
But that seems to be the luck of the Chiefs, who get the impossible bounces to land in their direction so often. Whether it’s been against the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs or in the Super Bowl — like last year’s end-of-game holding call on the Philadelphia Eagles — Kansas City has luck on its side.
Why the Bills haven’t been able to usurp the Chiefs has been a mystery for four seasons, but it’s really not that complicated. Those plays don’t happen for the Bills, they happen against the Bills.
Luck is clearly part of winning a Super Bowl and certainly a big part of maintaining a dynasty like Kansas City’s. Avoiding injuries while contenders to throne can’t or wild bounces during games is luck, but getting those bounces consistently most definitely isn’t.
The Chiefs are constantly attacking, constantly putting pressure on opponents and sometimes it creates whacky circumstances. And in the biggest moments of games, the Chiefs know how to pounce on those miscues through aggression and the ability of coaches and players to execute in step.
It’s why Mahomes’ postgame comments on why he’s always in positions to succeed remain glaring. The Chiefs force teams to play to them, while the Bills often let opponents dictate the game.
“(Chiefs coach Andy Reid) brings out the best in me because he lets me be me,” Mahomes said. “I think that’s important. He’s not trying to make me anyone else. I don’t think I’m the quarterback that I am if I didn’t have Coach Reid as my coach.”
Does that sound like the Bills? Does Sean McDermott treat own superstar quarterback, Josh Allen, the same way?
Kansas City has been less reliant on Mahomes this season than any in his career. The Chiefs have an improved running game and the best defense they’ve fielded since he became the starter in 2018, but when games are on the line, Mahomes has the same freedom he’s always been given.
Over the first nine possessions of the game, Mahomes went 17 of 23 for 163 yards — with 33 yards rushing — and the Chiefs had six points. Over the final four drives, Mahomes had the same number of completions, attempts and yards rushing, but threw for 170 yards and two touchdowns, as Kansas City scored 19 points.
When the Chiefs faced a three-point deficit with 1:53 to play, not only did they use the clock masterfully to leave 3 seconds left in regulation, but it wasn’t a drive intended to simply send the game to overtime. Kansas City was held to a field goal, but there was clear intent to score a touchdown.
Everything the Bills have done so often has been the opposite. While the Chiefs let the game come to them in the second half, the Bills constantly tried to build a big lead and sit on it. Even if the Chiefs aren’t putting every game on Mahomes’ shoulders, they never shackle him or try to limit him.
So often are the Bills content for Allen to manage the offense rather than serve as its conductor, only waiting to truly unleash him when they’re on the cusp of a loss. It’s why Allen has led 18 game-tying or go-ahead scoring drives — with only two walk-off scores — during his career and also why the Bills are 9-9 in those games.
Even when McDermott, whose teams have lost 20 games after leading in the second half, was under question prior to the bye week for why his defense had three late-game collapses in the first 12 games, he put some of the blame on the offense.
“There’s a lot of things that go into that in trying to close a game out,” McDermott said following an overtime loss to the Eagles. “So those are the things that we’re studying moving forward. And then offensively, we’ve got to not be in those one-score games. We’ve got to pull ahead or play better earlier in the game.”
The problem with constantly trying to maintain a lead without the same offensive aggressiveness is that quarterbacks like Mahomes are impossible to keep in check for an entire game. Just like Mahomes showed against the 49ers, he’s thrown for more yards, more touchdowns and has a higher completion percentage in the second half over seven career games against the Bills, while the Chiefs have out-scored them by 17 points.
Until the Bills learn to evolve, to use their star quarterback as a weapon instead of a last resort, they will continue to be a step behind the Chiefs.
When they were aggressive in Week 14, there was an offsides call that went in Buffalo’s favor. When they weren’t in the playoffs, Jones pushed Dion Dawkins into Allen at the last moment and a touchdown skipped into an incomplete pass.
Lucky bounces, right?