It wasn't pretty, but the Kansas City Chiefs will be all smiles as they head into their bye week at 9-0 after surviving the Buffalo Bills' upset bid on Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Kansas City's punishing and opportunistic defense bent but didn't break in Week 9, ultimately stealing the show with two monumental defensive touchdowns in the second half to power the AFC West leaders to a 23-13 win on the road.
Sunday's matchup was poised to be a defensive struggle, and defense was the theme in the early going. Then Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel, making his first career start, showed why Buffalo's coaching staff was so high on him, connecting with speedster Marquise Goodwin on a 59-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter to break the deadlock.
Unfortunately for the undrafted rookie out of Washington State, it was all downhill from there, as he tossed a pair of costly interceptions down the stretch.
Tuel's first-half interception set the Chiefs up with phenomenal field position, per Bills beat reporter Mike Rodak. They would capitalize on it, scoring on a field goal to narrow the gap.
Jeff Tuel throws his first interception of the day. An ugly one. Kendrick Lewis' pick sets up Chiefs from the Bills' 41.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) November 3, 2013
Buffalo tacked on three more points before halftime, but a poor decision from Tuel on the Bills' first drive of the second half provided the Chiefs with new life. With the Bills just one yard away from taking a 17-3 lead, Tuel threw his second interception of the game. The mistake proved costly, as Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith returned the pick the length of the field for a Kansas City touchdown.
The back-breaking play defined Sunday's game and was almost guaranteed to come back to haunt Buffalo, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed out:
Sean Smith with a game-changing pick-6. 101 yards. #Chiefs— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 3, 2013
After the two teams traded field goals down down the stretch of the third quarter, it was again Kansas City's defense that generated excitement, scooping up a fumble and running it in for the go-ahead touchdown with just over 12 minutes to play.
Tamba Hali was the man of the moment this time.
Following back-to-back stops by the Chiefs defense and punts from the Bills, Alex Smith drove Kansas City into field-goal range, where kicker Ryan Succop delivered a 39-yard dagger. The score gave the Chiefs a 10-point lead with two minutes to play.
The Chiefs outscored the Bills 20-3 in the second half and won the turnover battle. Unsurprisingly, Kansas City's defense held up and put the finishing touches on another victory.
Key Player Grades
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs, QB: C
Let's face it: Alex Smith was subpar against Buffalo. He only threw for 124 yards, and his offensive unit converted just three of 13 third downs. Still, he deserves a warm pat on the back for embracing the game manager role on the road. Sometimes it's the play you don't make that makes all the difference.
Tuel's errors cost his team dearly, while Smith was content to let his defense win the game. That was the difference in this one.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills, RB: A
C.J. Spiller certainly made the most of his limited opportunities on Sunday, shredding Kansas City's defense to the tune of 116 yards on just 12 carries. He also had two receptions for 39 yards in a losing effort.
With a 9.7 yards-per-carry average, you have to wonder why Spiller wasn't called on more often in a game the Bills had to have to keep their playoff hopes alive. ESPN NFL insider John Clayton has the answer:
After that nice run by C.J. Spiller, his injured ankle started to hurt again.— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) November 3, 2013
Kansas City Chiefs Defense: A
The Chiefs defense struggled immensely to stop the run, but it stepped up in every big moment. Bob Sutton's unit outscored the Bills by itself, producing two demoralizing touchdowns to power Kansas City to an unthinkable 9-0 start.
The Chiefs will enjoy a bye next week, giving them two weeks to rest up for their highly anticipated showdown with AFC West rival Denver in Week 11. Meanwhile, the Bills will return to action in Pittsburgh in Week 10.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.