Third playoff showdown between Mahomes and Allen features a twist - it's in Buffalo, not KC
Only this time there’s a twist — and no, it doesn’t involve potential sightings of Taylor Swift at Buffalo’s more popular wing joints.
The most significant change from a football perspective involves the Kansas City Chiefs (12-6) leaving the frigid comforts of Arrowhead in January by traveling to the equally frigid — and snowier — confines of Highmark Stadium for an AFC divisional round playoff showdown on Sunday night.
Rather than being serenaded by the “Tomahawk Chop,” the Chiefs will be greeted by a fanbase better known for trashing folding tables and which celebrated Buffalo's playoff-opening rout over Pittsburgh by throwing tufts of snow in the air like confetti on Monday.
Though this will be Mahomes' second trip to Western New York following the Chiefs’ 26-17 regular-season win in 2020, it'll be the quarterback’s first true playoff road game.
Fittingly, it’s Buffalo, where the Bills (12-6) and their fans have long fantasized over how home-field advantage might turn the tables after two of their past three playoff runs ended in Kansas City.
There was the lopsided 38-24 blowout loss in the AFC championship game in the 2020 season.
More immemorable was the heart-wrenching 42-36 overtime loss in the divisional round a year later in a game dubbed “13 Seconds” by Bills fans.
That’s how much time was left in regulation for the Chiefs to gain 44 yards on two plays and set up Harrison Butker’s game-tying 49-yard field goal. Kansas City won the coin toss and scored on its opening possession, which led directly to the NFL changing its playoff rules in now allowing the coin-toss loser one possession to tie the game if scored upon.
So nightmarish was the outcome, Bills coach Sean McDermott, to this day, refuses to reveal what went wrong in the team’s decision to kickoff into the end zone — rather than bounce it short — after Gabe Davis scored his fourth touchdown to put the Bills ahead.
This season, Buffalo earned the right to host the game with a 20-17 win at Kansas City on Dec. 10, which sparked the Bills five-game winning streak to close the season and clinch their fourth straight AFC East title.
The Bills, however, know all too well to be careful what they wish for in knowing the task of beating the Chiefs won’t be easy after splitting their previous six meetings, including playoffs, since 2020
“We’ve had our battles over the years and this will be another one. I mean, you watch what they did the other night. They were dominant,” McDermott said, referring to the Chiefs’ playoff-opening 26-7 win over Miami on Saturday. “So we gotta get our rest and try and get a little bit healthier, if we can, and then, and get ourselves ready to go again.”
Complicating matters further are the Bills are playing on an even shorter week after their playoff opener was moved from Sunday to Monday because of a lake-effect storm hitting the region. With another storm set to hit Buffalo on Tuesday night, there’s concern the Bills may not be able to travel to their facility for practice on Wednesday.
Injuries are an even bigger issue. Buffalo closed the game against Pittsburgh with a patchwork defense after starting linebacker Terrel Bernard (right ankle), backup linebacker Baylon Spector (back), starting cornerback Christian Benford (knee) and starting nickelback Taron Johnson (concussion) were hurt. This is a defense that began the game without starting cornerback Rasul Douglas (knee) and starting linebacker Tyrel Dodson (calf).
The onus will be on Allen to relieve the burden, as he did against the Steelers with a no-turnover, four-touchdown outing that included an electrifying 52-yard run, the longest in franchise playoff history.
Allen is counting on "Bills Mafia" to make a difference.
“The vibe, the energy, the juice that we can use from that,” Allen said. "You just can’t chalk it up to anything other than momentum, something you can’t see but something you can definitely feel. And they give that to us.”
A running attack that provided the offense balance in gaining 179 yards — including Allen's 74 — and improving to 12-2 when topping 100 yards this season.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
A training staff dealing with a rash of injuries that could include punter Sam Martin, who stayed in the game after hurting his left hamstring attempting to chase down a blocked field goal.
LB A.J. Klein. The 11th-year player was planning to retire before the Bills re-signed him to the practice squad last week. He stepped in by leading Buffalo with 11 tackles against Pittsburgh.
PK Tyler Bass. The fourth-year player had a 49-yard attempt blocked and then missed wide left from 27 yards, the first time Bass has failed from inside the 29.
McDermott was expected to provide an update later in the day.
29-5 — Allen's record when he doesn't commit a turnover, including 4-1 in the postseason.
After facing Steelers coach and former William & Mary college teammate Mike Tomlin, McDermott faces his mentor in Kansas City coach Andy Reid. McDermott was part of Reid's staff in Philadelphia from 1999-2010.
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