For Bills’ fans, it will go down as one of the most heartbreaking losses in franchise history, finding a spot among the four straight Super Bowl losses (Wide Right) and the Music City Miracle.
Coach Sean McDermott is among those who will have a hard time not revisiting and thinking about the final 13 seconds and brief overtime of the 42-36 loss.
“I watched it on video and I watched it over and over in my head a million times, in my stomach a million more,” McDermott said Tuesday during his end-of-season news conference. “It’s my livelihood and I’m super competitive as well. I want the best for our football team and this organization and our fans, quite honestly. So I’ll continue to watch it in my mind and in my gut for years … but when we get to where we’re trying to get to, I believe that’ll make it that much more enjoyable in that moment.”
For now, the feelings from the loss will linger as the Bills’ offseason begins. After returning much of the roster from the 2020 season, losing to the same opponent at the same venue a year later (the Chiefs defeated the Bills in last year’s AFC Championship Game) shouldn’t sit well with a team.
The game was the first in playoff history with four go-ahead touchdowns in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter/overtime and second of all games in the Super Bowl era (Vikings-Ravens in 2013), per the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Bills led 36-33 thanks to a historic fourth touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Allen to wide receiver Gabriel Davis (the first player with receiving touchdowns in a playoff game), which left just 13 seconds on the clock for the Chiefs to try and kick a tying field goal. They did just that.
“I’m thinking it’s Pat Mahomes on the other side,” Allen said of his thoughts after taking the lead. “They made some good plays there at the end, and unfortunately the coin toss went the way it went. But I mean, again, scoring with 13 seconds left, it was an unbelievable play by him.”
Following the game, many questioned the decision by McDermott to kick the ball into the end zone on the kickoff, not taking time off the clock with a squib kick or one that forced a return. While the coach declined to get into the specifics of the thought process, or if that was the play he called, he pointed to the execution of the situation.
“It comes down to execution,” McDermott said. “[It’s] disappointing because we pride ourselves on detail. We pride ourselves on execution and being great in situational football. And we practiced that tirelessly here. I mean, nonstop. … It’s even more disappointing knowing that we prepare and practice those situations a ton here in Buffalo. That’s where I come back to you gotta face it and we’re not gonna run from it. I believe in that.”
In terms of a potential miscommunication on the kickoff playcall involving special teams coordinator Heath Farwell or others or if kicker Tyler Bass was supposed to kick it shorter than he did to take time off the clock, McDermott declined to share more insight, saying, “I’m not going to get into the weeds on that.”
The coach also acknowledged that drawing a penalty to take time off the clock was considered as well as taking a timeout during overtime as Mahomes went 6-of-6 passing and took the Chiefs downfield for a game-winning touchdown to tight end Travis Kelce. McDermott didn’t want to divulge much beyond mentioning execution on what played out defensively on the field in the final moments of the fourth quarter or overtime.
“We executed,” linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said on the final 13 seconds. “It’s just an unfortunate situation that we were in, that things didn’t go our way.”
While things didn’t work out for the Bills on defense, the league’s overtime rules are being brought into question again after Allen and the offense didn’t have any opportunity to respond to the Chiefs’ touchdown on the first drive of overtime. Since the current overtime rules in the playoffs were adopted in 2010, the team that won the coin toss has now scored a touchdown on the opening possession in seven of those 11 games, per ESPN Stats & Info data.
Multiple Bills players, including Allen, said the rule is what it is, but left tackle Dion Dawkins advocated for a change.
“We should never let a football game be determined from a coin,” Dawkins said. “You can fight your entire fight the whole game, and then the game comes down to a 50-50 chance of a coin toss. Like, this ain’t Vegas. Like, we’re not at the casino table. … It’s just crazy that that was the outcome. But going into the 2022 season, we just need to just understand that let’s just keep everything in our hands, you know, and not a coin’s hands. Because when it’s in our hands, our hand wins. When it’s in a coin’s hands, it’s a 50-50 chance that shouldn’t even be allowed in this game.”