KANSAS CITY --- Sammy Watkins is getting his targets and making the Kansas City Chiefs pay. Still, a Chiefs team that was struggling to move the ball at all and keeps losing players to injuries up front woke up midway through the first half to prevent a Bills rout. It's 16-14 Bills in this crucial AFC match-up. A few quick halftime thoughts...
Moving the ball at will. The Bills have been taking it to a defense that's been downright dominant of late. They already have 16 points, 15 first downs and 296 total yards against a group that's allowed only three touchdowns in four games. Buffalo's O-Line is shoving around a front seven that's now missing Justin Houston to injury (he's questionable to return), pulling center Eric Wood often on their go-to sweep play. LeSean McCoy has 42 yards on 12 attempts, though Karlos Williams (shoulder) was lost to injury. And Tyrod Taylor is finding Sammy Watkins...
Watkins embarrassing Sean Smith. The cornerback who burnt Buffalo for a 100-yard interception returned for a touchdown two years ago in a Chiefs win at Ralph Wilson Stadium cannot handle the Bills wide receiver today. Watkins toasted him for a 48-yarder early on. He beat Smith on an inside release, then taking his route back outside up the sideline for a 28-yard score. And then Watkins plucked the ball above Smith's head in the end zone for a 21-yard score. It's been a clinic for the former fourth overall pick today. He has 158 yards on six grabs in all so far. Give quarterback Tyrod Taylor credit --- he's forcing the issue even though the vowed not to force the issue earlier in the week and it's paying off for the Bills. There's no hesitation at all from Taylor in getting the ball to the team's No. 1 threat. Watkins is a rare, rare talent. And since the Chiefs don't have top corner Marcus Peters trail receivers, they'd probably be wise to keep Watkins on the left side of the field over Smith. Watkins had a point all along, really.
The catch that wasn't. For some reason, coach Rex Ryan opted not to challenge Alex Smith's 37-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin on KC's first scoring drive. When Ronald Darby left the game, Smith went right at his replacement Mario Butler on an underthrown deep ball. The receiver adjusted to make what looked like a difficult catch but the replay showed the nose of the ball clearly hit the ground. Ryan didn't challenge the ruled catch, however, and Spencer Ware punched in a three-yard touchdown the next play. Whoops.
What concussion protocol? And after the team announced Darby was going through the concussion protocol one drive later after absorbing a hard hit from Ware the previous drive, there Darby magically appeared on the field. Concussions remain a problem in the NFL. Buffalo will need to answer for this, one week after the St. Louis Rams botched its handling of Case Keenum's concussion. Furher, soon after,Darby was then beat by Jeremy Maclin one on one for a 41-yard touchdown. Smith, so often given the game manager tag, is showing he's far more than that so far. He's 8 of 15 for 129 yards.
A missed extra point. Nah, that won't come back to bite Buffalo you know where in this critical AFC game.
Chiefs hurting on the offensive line. A group that was already missing guard Ben Grubbs is now without tackle Eric Fisher and Jeff Allen. The injuries didn't seem to slow down Kansas City much as the first half progressed. Smith heated up and then led Kansas City on a late field goal drive before halftime, running for eight yards around the corner to set up a 54-yard attempt that bounced off the crossbar.