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'13 seconds' remains a mystery, but Tyler Bass has produced big for the Bills

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Bills KC playoffs second (copy)

Bills kicker Tyler Bass (2) is second in the NFL in points scored over the past two seasons.

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One of Tyler Bass’ last times on a football field for the Buffalo Bills has left many unanswered questions.

The kicker’s role in the infamous “13 seconds” loss to the Kansas City Chiefs remains a mystery. Was Bass asked to kick the ball into the end zone like he did for a touchback? Was he instructed to kick the ball short of the goal line, but failed to execute the play? Did that instruction never get to him?

To all variations of those questions, the Bills have largely remained silent, choosing instead to chalk the sequence up to a “lack of execution.” Bass himself hasn’t discussed the play in question at all. He was not made available to reporters after the game or at all during spring practices.

As much as the Bills want to wish the topic away, that’s not going to happen. The fallout from last season will continue to come up. The Bills are the preseason Super Bowl favorites. They’re one of the biggest draws in the NFL, which means a steady stream of national reporters will be making their way through Western New York. To think the topic of last season’s collapse won’t come up is naïve.

At some point, Bass will be asked those questions. New special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley did address the breakdown last month when he spoke to reporters for the first time since being named to the position.

Said Smiley: “I think that there are a lot of intricacies in the game of football, that it's not as much as it is comforting to say `It's your fault, it's his fault. This is exactly what happened.' It's that overall communication, that whether it's 13 seconds to go in a playoff game or whether it is a Tuesday practice and what drill is going to go where, it's that improving communication that I think is very important. I spent four years in the Air Force and was deployed a lot. And we would always work through what we call the fog of war. And it was that, `Wait, whose fault was it? No, no, no. That's not the right question. The right question is, what can each individual do better in their specific area?' And that's what I'm going to make sure that I try to encourage, both from myself and the guys in the room.

“I would say we did not execute exactly the way we wanted to execute. So any time that's the issue, that there's a lack of communication when there's a lack of execution, I think they go hand in hand.”

Bass’ role in “13 seconds” shouldn’t overshadow what has been a terrific start to his NFL career. Since being a sixth-round draft pick in 2020, Bass has 276 points in the regular season, second only to the Raiders’ Daniel Carlson (294). Bass has made 56 of 66 field goals over that time.

His 84.8% success rate on field goals ranks 11th among 22 kickers with at least 50 attempts over the past two years, and he has converted 108 of 110 extra-point tries. His leg strength alone extends the Bills' scoring territory.

“A lot of credit goes to him as a man,” Smiley said of Bass. “He came in from a smaller school, was a drafted specialist. He has worked his butt off to keep things in perspective, keep with a routine, keep stacking good days. That's the most rewarding thing of coaching is when you can get a guy to have a good day today and then look back and be able to ask that question, 'hey, he's had a couple good years, how did that happen?' Because he had a good day, he had a good period, he had a good film session. Stack those up, and then he can eventually in 20 years look back and say, 'well, I had a heck of a career. How'd that happen?' Because he stacked those up one day at a time.”

Bass’ strong numbers don’t reflect that he plays in one of the more challenging weather cities in the NFL. Taking that into account makes the start of his career look even better. One potential challenge for Bass this season may be adapting to working with a new holder. The Bills are having an open competition at punter, having drafted San Diego State’s Matt Araiza in the sixth round in April. One thing Smiley won’t saddle Bass with is weighing in on the competition between Araiza and incumbent Matt Haack as it relates to the holding duties for extra points and field goals.

“It's not Tyler's job to tell me who he thinks is doing a good job,” Smiley said. “That's even more pressure, I think, that's unfair to ask him to do. So it's my responsibility, coach's responsibility, Brandon (Beane)’s responsibility. To when we get to it, after we've charted everything and watched everything to eventually make the right decision for the team.”

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News Sports Reporter

I started at The Buffalo News in 2009, and have previously been honored as one of the top 10 beat writers in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors for my coverage of the Bills. I live in Amherst with my wife, Melissa, and son, Elliott.

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