ORCHARD PARK - Kansas City (9-0) did exactly what they've done all year to remain undefeated on Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium - play solid defense and convert turnovers into points - as it escaped with a 23-13 win over the Buffalo Bills (3-6).
"Every win you get in the National Football League is a good win," Chiefs' head coach Andy Reid said. "We rallied in the fourth quarter and did some things that were better than we had done early. However, the two touchdowns were very important."
The two touchdowns Reid was referring to were the 100-yard interception return by Sean Smith on the Bills' opening drive of the second half and the 11-yard fumble return by Tamba Hali with 12:47 left in fourth quarter.
"That's a long haul," Reid said of the return. "That's a long run and he was able to get himself in the end zone. I thought the guys around him protected well. And at that point, we needed it. We needed that score and it came at the right place."
"It was like Christmas," Smith added. "You know, you go downstairs as a little kid and there's a big box right there. That's how I felt. If he threw it right to me, the main thing I just wanted to do was focus and catch the ball, because I knew once I caught it, that no one was catching me."
Prior to the interception, the Bills moved the ball down the field with relative ease after starting the second half at their own 20-yard line.
C.J. Spiller showed the explosiveness that had been missing much of the season after he suffered an ankle injury earlier in the year, as he took the ball down to the Chiefs' 19-yard line on the first play from scrimmage.
"(The) offensive line and tight ends and wide receivers did a great job blocking," Spiller, who finished with 116 yards on 12 carries, said. "Just trying to make a couple plays, a couple guys miss, just try to give us a spark.
Fred Jackson needed three plays to go 18 yards down to the Kansas City 1-yard line, but the offense stalled as Jackson was stuffed on the next two plays. Then it happened, one of those plays that Bills fans have unfortunately come to expect, as undrafted rookie free agent quarterback Jeff Tuel, who was starting in place of injured colleagues E.J. Manuel and Thad Lewis, threw the ball right to Smith, who had nothing but open field in front of him.
"It was zero coverage all out," Tuel said of the Chiefs' defensive call on the interception. "100 percent my fault, something I've got to see. I can't do that. We've got to finish with a kick no matter what, whether it's an extra point or a touchdown or field goal. So it's 100 percent on me."
Defensively, the Bills held the Chiefs to 210 yards on 54 plays from scrimmage, but unlike Kansas City, Buffalo wasn't able to force any turnovers.
"I thought that there were a lot of good things that happened on that field (Sunday)," Bills' head coach Doug Marrone said. "Defensively, they did a heck of a job. We knew coming in that this team scored a lot of points off turnovers. They had 17 off of turnovers. Even offensively there was some good things that happened and at the end of the day, it's so close from being a good football team in this league.
"You saw it," Marrone continued, "they're an 8-0 football team, 9-0 now and we're 3-6. When it's time to make the plays, you have to make the plays, and we didn't do that. It hurts because we've got great fans, great people, guys play hard."
Offensively, it wasn't all bad for Buffalo, as they outgained Kansas City by 260 yards (470-210), including 241 rushing yards on 38 carries, but in the end, as it has been for much of the season, the effort just wasn't enough. And now, with the Bills three games under .500 more and more fans will begin to debate who Buffalo should take in next year's draft, rather than what seed they may end up with in the playoffs.
"We're a good football team that is not making the plays that we have to make," Marrone said. "We play extremely hard, we fight through adversity, but we're just not making the plays at the times that we need to make (them). And that's everybody."