In what has become the main storyline of the season, the Buffalo Bills played well enough to win but came up a little bit short. This week they fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 23-13 at home in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
With Thad Lewis out due to a rib injury, the Bills turned to Jeff Tuel, who is the team's third starting quarterback of the season. The undrafted rookie played well for the majority of the game but made a few key mistakes that determined the outcome of the game.
These are the five biggest takeaways from the Bills' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
For the majority of the season, the Bills have been on the right side of the turnover battle. This wasn't the case against Kansas City and was the main reason they lost. The Chiefs outscored Buffalo 20-3 in the second half, and 14 of those points came off Bills turnovers.
The Bills opened the second half with the ball and drove all the way down to the Chiefs' 1-yard line with the big play being a 61-yard run by C.J. Spiller. On 3rd-and-goal, Buffalo called a pass play that cornerback Sean Smith read the whole way and intercepted the pass. He returned it the length of the field for a touchdown and tied the game up at 10.
The team recovered from this and played well for the rest of the third quarter and entered the final 15 minutes tied at 13.
In the fourth quarter though, the Bills, and more specifically T.J. Graham, made the mistake that decided the game. On a 3rd-and-long, Tuel dropped the ball off to Graham on a crossing route deep in their own end of the field. The wide receiver was hit and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Tamba Hali and returned for a touchdown.
In the NFL it is hard to win games when teams constantly turn the ball over. The Bills finished the game minus-three in the turnover battle, and it is hard to win games with that large of a margin.
The Bills' running game has not looked this good since their game against Baltimore a few weeks ago. Buffalo racked up 241 yards rushing against the Chiefs and had their first 100-yard rusher since Week 2 with C.J. Spiller's 116.
This was Spiller's first game back after missing last week's matchup against the Saints to give the ankle some time to heal. The rest looked like it was a huge help as he showed the explosiveness and sharp cuts Bills fans have come to know. However, he does not look like he is completely healthy as he did not show his breakaway speed when he got in the open field, especially on his 61-yard run in third quarter.
When the team is able to get the running game going, this offense is much more explosive and able to move the ball almost at will. This has to be the focus next week against Pittsburgh if they hope to get the win.
For the first time since the Bengals game, Buffalo looked like they were dedicated to extending defenses with long throws. This was noticeable from the early part of this game when they called two deep passes in three plays. Tuel was able to connect the second time with Marquise Goodwin for a 59-yard touchdown.
These play calls put the Chiefs' defense on notice and was one of the reasons Buffalo's run game was so successful. The Chiefs realized that they could not stack the line to stop C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and had to respect the Bills' passing game.
The play call also helped Tuel because he did not have to worry so much about reading the defense. When the Bills call these go routes he has to read the safeties, and if they are playing more towards the line of scrimmage, he just has to put the ball out in front of the receiver far enough that the cornerback can't make a play on it.
A couple of times he didn't do that and allowed the defender to get back into the play. They didn't capitalize on these throws so in the end it was effective in keeping the Chiefs' defense off-balance.
Dating all the way back to the Bengals game, the offensive line has been a liability. Thad Lewis had been sacked 13 times over those three games, and the running game was not given much room to work.
The Chiefs led the league in sacks entering this game, and the offensive line struggles had to be a concern for this coaching staff. This group really stepped up against Kansas City and had their most complete game of the season.
The pass protection was perfect as Jeff Tuel was not sacked once and was given time to find the open receiver. The run protection was just as good giving the Bills' running backs room to get to the second level of the defense. This will hopefully be a turning point for a group that has been much maligned for the majority of the season.
Fans have become way too accustomed to losses over the past couple of years. Even though Buffalo is 3-6, this year has a different feel to it, and these losses can be chalked up more to inexperience and injuries than lack of competitiveness.
Aside from the Saints game, this team has been competitive in every game. This is impressive considering how many injuries they have had at key positions. They have used three different quarterbacks who combined for one game of NFL experience before this season.
They put together a great game plan and coached up an undrafted rookie who played above expectations. Jeff Tuel looked much more composed and efficient in this offense than he did in his limited action against Cleveland.
This team looks like they will miss the playoffs once again this season, however this is not the fault of Doug Marrone and the rest of the coaching staff. The coaching staff has done a good job of putting this team in a position to win games and has shown improvement from the start of the season. As they gain experience, both players and coaches alike, the wins should be there in the future.