From Arrowhead Stadium
The memo went out last week. The 2011 pre-season was over. The real season was to begin on Sunday. Everybody was put on notice.
Based on what happened at a sun-splashed Arrowhead Stadium, the Bills got the memo. The Chiefs did not. They played like they had in a 0-4 pre-season, failing to understand the significance that the outcome of these contests counts in the standings.
Buffalo 41, the Chiefs 7. Seldom in the history of the franchise has the red and gold been between as badly as they were by the Bills to open the 2011 regular season. Chan Gailey brought his team to town and they dominated every aspect of the game, starting with the opening kickoff that was fumbled away by Dexter McCluster.
From there, it was all Bills and all downhill for the Chiefs. Buffalo was in total control. It was the most dominating opening game performance by the Bills in 35 years and it was the worst opening day beat down the Chiefs have experienced in 52 seasons of football.
The star of the game was Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw for four touchdown passes and 208 yards on the afternoon. He got help from RB Fred Jackson, who picked up 112 yards in 20 carries, most of that coming in the second half when Buffalo was looking to kill the clock.
And, the play of the Bills defense cannot be forgotten, as they allowed just 213 yards and held the Chiefs running game that led the NFL in rushing last year to just 108 yards on 18 carries. They also had an interception and a recovered fumble, two sacks and the special teams forced a fumble as well.
“It doesn’t need a lot of description,” said Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. “We did the things you do that get you beat â turning the ball over, not stopping the run, not converting third downs, allowing big returns, missing kicks.”
The positives were few and far between for the Chiefs in this game. The difference in production and performance by the teams was a stark indicator that one team was ready to play, while the other not so much.
“I feel like we were prepared,” said QB Matt Cassel, who had a mediocre day throwing the football. “We just didn’t come out and play well. As players we have to make a collective effort to get better.”
That’s going to take a lot more work, because every facet of the Chiefs was a contributor to the defeat. The offense produced just one touchdown and after that score never got back into Buffalo territory. Forced into a sub-defense with six defensive backs because the Bills used so much four and five-receiver sets, the Chiefs couldn’t slow down Fitzpatrick and Jackson was able to find running room. On special teams, Ryan Succop missed a field goal, Dustin Colquitt had an ugly day punting and they got nothing out of their return game.
In fact, the Chiefs special teams set the table for the afternoon’s destruction. Under clear blue skies and near perfect weather conditions, the Chiefs came out and played generous hosts. RB Dexter McCluster took the opening kickoff and fumbled it away with LB Kelvin Sheppard falling on the ball and Buffalo had the ball and great field position at the Chiefs 26-yard line.
Fitzpatrick needed just five plays to move the Bills offense into the end zone, surviving his own fumble of a snap. On third-and-goal at the Chiefs four-yard line, Fitzpatrick connected with TE Scott Chandler for Buffalo’s first touchdown of the year. The PAT kick from Rian Lindell allowed the Bills an early 7-0 advantage.
By the end of the first quarter, Fitzgerald and his passing game had another touchdown, connecting for a 27-yard scoring pass to WR Stevie Johnson. It was a great catch from Johnson, who had to climb up the back of CB Brandon Flowers to pull the ball down at the goal line. But there they were, up 14-0, the Chiefs were reeling and a nice sized Arrowhead crowd was unhappy and letting Haley and his team know about it.
For a moment, it seemed like the Chiefs were going to get back in the game when Cassel connected with TE Leonard Pope for what officials ruled as a touchdown. But the new NFL rules that require all scoring plays be reviewed overturned the call, because Pope did not have clean possession as he fell out of bounds in the end zone. The Chiefs ended up not getting any points out of that possession, as Succop missed a 49-yard FG.
Meanwhile, the Bills tacked on a pair of field goals before the Chiefs found the scoreboard. Cassel led them on an 11-play, 81-yard drive. The score came on a six-yard pass to Charles that just snuck past a charging defensive back who had a chance for the interception. With Ryan Succop’s PAT kick, the first half ended with the Bills holding a 20-7 lead.
In the third quarter, Fitzpatrick threw touchdown passes of 11 yards to Chandler and then four yards to WR Donald Jones. Meanwhile, the Bills defense held the Chiefs to a net seven yards in the third quarter, as KC never got near the end zone. In the second half, their deepest penetration was their own 41-yard line. That ended with a Cassel interception by CB Drayton Florence.
And that turnover helped set up the Bills final touchdown, on a nine-yard run by RB C.J. Spiller. With Lindell’s PAT, the score was 41-7 and it stayed that way for the game’s final 12 minutes.
By the time it was over, the stands at Arrowhead were deserted and the Chiefs trudged to the locker room with a beating they never would have expected to come their way. Ahead are back-to-back road trips to Detroit and San Diego. Last year’s 3-0 start may be followed by this season’s 0-3 start.
“We’ll be better,” Haley said. “We have to be better next week and we are going to be better. I believe in their ability to steel their mind and stick together in the face of adversity as a team and that’s what we’re going to do.”