The Buffalo Bills' defense discovered a shut-down identity Sunday in Kansas City. Go figure.
The Bills entered the game ranked last in the NFL in forcing three-and-out drives. Only 13 percent of opponent drives the first 10 games went three plays and punt. NFL defenses overall this season have averaged three and outs on 24 percent of drives, according to Football Outsiders.
Yet the Bills stopped Kansas City three and out on 6 of 13 drives – including the first five to start the game.
Thus ended the miserable slump that saw the Bills allow 45 points and 414 yards a game the previous three weeks. Three and outs? The Bills' D was 3 of 33 (9 percent) in the losing streak.
The Bills' no-bend-no-break performance started with the run defense, which held the Chiefs to just 2.9 yards a carry.
A big run-stop heads 10 plays that shaped the game:
1. No fooling. The Chiefs tried trickeration on a third-and-2 play from their own 46 with 13:35 left in the game.
They lined up with four men in the backfield. Tight end Travis Kelce took the snap, with running backs on either side of him and quarterback Alex Smith lined up behind him. The handoff went to speedy Tyreek Hill on a sweep to the right.
Bills linebacker Matt Milano was not fooled. He shot unblocked through the gap at right tackle to slow down Hill. Safety Micah Hyde stood up running back Kareem Hunt, who was trying to make a lead block. Shaq Lawson made the stop. The Chiefs were forced to punt, squandering great field position.
That was the final three and out for the Chiefs, who entered the game with the 10th lowest three-and-out rate (21 percent).
2. Ice it. Tre'Davious White took advantage of a miscommunication between Smith and Hill to seal the game. Hill broke inside on a 12-yard hook rout, and Smith threw outside on a third-and-8 play from the Buffalo 36 with 1:25 left. White returned the pickoff 63 yards to the Chiefs' 10.
Kelce was open on a 6-yard route over the middle (he would have been tackled by Preston Brown for a short gain) but Smith was looking at Hill all the way.
3. Cross-field TD. Good play design and good patience produced the Bills' first touchdown. Tyrod Taylor had time to wait for Zay Jones to work across the length of the field on a crossing route because the Bills rolled him out to the right on a bootleg. Marcus Peters, the Chiefs' best cornerback, was in a tough coverage position, chasing Jones. Peters had only given up five catches the past four games. But Taylor let Jones work to the left side of the end zone before delivering on target for an 11-yard TD.
4. Long range. With an average salary of $2.9 million on his three-year contract, Stephen Hauschka ranks 11th in the NFL in kicker pay. He's worth every penny. He came through again at the end of the half with a 56-yard field goal. The 63-degree day was good for kickers. The Bills played in Kansas City in November 2000 when the wind chill was zero.
5. Speed screen. The Chiefs' TD came on a 19-yard receiver screen pass to Albert Wilson in the third quarter. Wilson is a speed receiver who ran a 4.43 second 40-yard dash out of Georgia State in 2014. He got a good block from Kelce and was too fast for Leonard Johnson, chasing the play.
6. Off target. The Chiefs' second-last drive ended with a Smith incompletion for Hill on a fourth-and-4 play from the Buffalo 46. He led the receiver too far. Bills safety Jordan Poyer put a good hit on Hill and might have broken up the pass had it been on the mark.
7. Key pressure. On a third-down play in the second quarter, Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander beat Eric Fisher with a bull rush, pushing the left tackle back into the quarterback's field of vision. Good thing. Kelce was open downfield, but Smith was forced to dump underneath and incomplete.
8. Quick response. Taylor hit Charles Clay for 33 yards on the first play from scrimmage after the Chiefs pulled within 13-10. Daniel Sorensen's facemask foul added 15 yards, putting the Bills at the KC 27. Hauschka kicked his third field goal four plays later. It was a deep over route. Taylor's nifty floater just barely arrived before Peters could intercept it.
9. Good hands. Jordan Matthews reached down to grab an 8-yard slant for a third-down conversion two plays before Jones' TD.
10. Coverage sack. Smith held the ball for 7 seconds before taking a 16-yard sack from Alexander in the third quarter.