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RED-ZONE FAILURES SINK BILLS
CHIEFS ALLOW JUST ONE TD

There was a feeling of dread for the Buffalo Bills as Sunday's game in Arrowhead Stadium crept toward conclusion.

They just knew the fact they left 12 points on the field -- by settling for three instead of getting seven on three separate occasions -- was going to come back to bite them.

"To our credit, we gave ourselves a lot of chances," said Bills offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride after Buffalo's 17-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. "But winning teams take advantage of those chances. We didn't."

The result: The Bills are not a winning team anymore. Their second straight defeat dropped them to 5-5 and left them a game behind Miami (6-4) in the AFC East.

This one was only slightly less galling than the season-opening defeat to the New York Jets when the Bills pounded their division rivals all over the field but lost on two kickoff returns.

If someone had told Gregg Williams his defense would hold Priest Holmes to 3.4 yards a carry, Tony Gonzalez would manage just two catches and Travis Henry would gain 164 total yards, the Bills coach would have packed a couple of bottles of Dom Perignon for the plane ride home.

"It feels like one got away," said Bills defensive end Chidi Ahanotu.

"Ultimately, we didn't outplay them," said fullback Larry Centers. "But we felt we had the better football team, and we didn't make the most of the opportunities."

Just one touchdown in four trips inside the Chiefs' 20 overshadowed what was arguably the Bills' best defensive game of the year, considering the quality of the K.C. offense.

It was uncharacteristic of the Bills' offense. The Bills entered the game ranked sixth in the National Football League in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 58 percent of their trips inside the opposition's 20.

Sunday, they ended the third quarter clinging to a 16-10 lead because of their failed opportunities.

Here's what went wrong:

The Bills had first-and-goal from the 5 early in the second quarter but threw three incompletions and settled for a Mike Hollis field goal to pull within 7-3.

The Bills had a good play called on second-and-goal. Fullback Phillip Crosby was wide-open in the right flat but the pass slipped out of Drew Bledsoe's hand and fell incomplete.

"We had just run the ball well to get down there," said Gilbride. "We positioned ourselves. I figured they were going to blitz (on second down), and they did. We pack it all down (to make the play look like a run), and all we have to do is complete it in the flat. It was a walk-in (into the end zone). But it slipped."

The Bills had first-and-10 from the Chiefs' 11 on their next possession, which was set up by a surprise onside kick.

But Eric Moulds was called for a 5-yard false start. After a 7-yard Henry run, Bledsoe hit Moulds for an apparent touchdown. But the instant replay review correctly overturned the play. Moulds had one foot out of bounds. Then Bledsoe was sacked on third down thanks to good coverage by the Chiefs.

Late in the third quarter, Bledsoe marched the Bills to a first-and-10 from the Chiefs' 15. Henry ran 5 yards on first down. On second down, Bledsoe had Moulds open on a slant pattern, but his throw was tipped near the line by Chiefs linebacker Mike Maslowski. A third-down screen to Henry went nowhere, and Hollis made a kick to give the Bills a six-point lead.

"We had our shots," Bledsoe said. "One time I had Eric on a slant for a touchdown. . . . Another time Eric almost made a spectacular catch but apparently didn't quite get his foot down. It's just one play here, one play there in the red zone."

Of 15 red-zone plays, the Bills ran three and passed 12.

Two other big plays decided the game.

With 8:30 left, Bills cornerback Chris Watson was called for a 36-yard pass interference penalty on a deep sideline throw for Eddie Kennison. It was a close play but looked like a bad call on the televised replay. Watson looked up for the ball just as he and Kennison nudged shoulder pads. The Chiefs got the ball on the Bills' 19 and seven plays later scored the go-ahead touchdown.

"That's just the call the ref made," Watson said. "I can't sit here and dwell on it. I thought I looked back on it. I saw the ball. But I could have played better. I have to go back and work on how I can play better."

"There were several of those I have no comment on," said Williams.

Bledsoe then drove the Bills to the Chiefs' 40 but threw an interception near the goal line on a post pattern by Peerless Price. Price was open, but the ball was slightly underthrown and Chiefs cornerback Eric Warfield made a nice play.

"It was an outstanding call by Kevin," Bledsoe said. "It was something we had talked about at halftime. We felt like we could get Peerless deep. . . . Peerless broke open on the post and I turned it loose. I really thought I might have overthrown it. In retrospect, I should have brought Peerless across the field more than I did rather than taking him straight up the field. I didn't know exactly where the backside safety was, so I tried to keep it up the field. The guy came in and made a great play on the ball."

The Bills had the edge in yards, 344-320. They had the edge in time of possession, 31:41 to 28:19. But the red zone miscues and penalties (they had 13 for 139 yards) did them in.

"It's hard to find something to hang your hat on after a loss like this," said guard Ruben Brown. "We had the momentum and we lost it. It's a tough loss at this point and time of the year. I've been around long enough to know a game like this can come back to haunt us. Hopefully, we'll dig ourselves out of this situation."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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