Bills fall flat again against AFC’s elite, still lead East

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Coach Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills had an opportunity to measure themselves against the AFC’s elite over the span of a week. They fell well short of prime-time aspirations.

The teams that played in last year’s AFC championship game had an easy time against the Bills, who were thumped at Tennessee last Tuesday night and overrun by rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the Kansas City Chiefs in a 26-17 loss on Monday night.

“This is where we want to be in terms of these types of games against good teams,” McDermott said. “That’s where we want to be, and we’ve come up short these two games, and so we go back to the drawing board.”

The Bills at least were in contention against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs through the final minutes, unlike what happened in their 42-16 meltdown against the Titans.

“The objective in this league is to win ballgames. The Buffalo Bills don’t go out there to try to keep close with a great opponent,” safety Micah Hyde said. “But as long as we can continue to learn from the mistakes we make, don’t make the same mistakes twice after back-to-back losses, then we’ll be OK.”

The big plus for the Bills (4-2) is that they still lead the AFC East, a game ahead of Miami (3-3), with New England (2-3) uncharacteristically languishing in third place. And Buffalo gets what should be a breather when it faces the winless and hapless New York Jets on Sunday.

Buffalo’s once-stout defense continues to be a work in progress after allowing the Chiefs to play keep-away on the ground. Led by Edwards-Helaire’s 161 yards rushing, the Chiefs finished with 245 — the most since Buffalo gave up 273 yards rushing in a 24-12 loss to New England in December 2018.

The Bills prevented Patrick Mahomes from beating them deep, though he finished 21 of 26 for 225 yards, with two touchdown passes to Travis Kelce.

Buffalo’s biggest deficiency continues to be stopping opponents on third down.

The Chiefs converted 9 of 14 opportunities, including a third-and-11 in which Mahomes avoided pressure and completed a 37-yard pass to Byron Pringle. That play extended a drive that led to Harrison Butker’s 30-yard field goal with 1:56 left.

“We had to get a stop and we didn’t. It was third-and-long and then we let Mahomes outside the pocket,” Hyde said. “It was a little frustrating because we wanted to get off the field but we didn’t.”

Buffalo has allowed three of its past four opponents to convert 60% or more of their third-down opportunities after not doing so once in its first three seasons under McDermott.

The third-down struggles contributed to the Chiefs having a 15-plus-minute edge in time of possession, leaving Buffalo’s Josh Allen-led offense cooling its heels on the sideline.

Allen blamed himself, saying he had to do better with a limited number of possessions.

“Obviously, 17 points is not going to cut it in this league,” said Allen, who finished 14 of 27 for 122 yards with touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. “I’m obviously super frustrated with myself and how I performed tonight. I can’t do that to this team. I’ve got to be better.”

Trailing 13-10 at the half, the Bills combined for 22 yards of offense and one first down on their first two possessions after halftime.

Safety Jordan Poyer noted the Bills endured similar struggles during the 2017 season before finishing 9-7 and snapping a 17-year playoff drought, which ranked as the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports.

“We just kept trucking, man,” Poyer said. “Obviously, two losses in a row is not something that you want to do. … Right now, I think the team has the right mindset and wants to just keep getting better.”

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