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Posted: Sunday, 03 November 2013 6:53PM

Sideline Reactions: Chiefs 23 - Bills 13



Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550)  -- The Buffalo Bills made their return home for the first time in the past three weeks, with a matchup against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs on the horizon. Continuing the cruelly comical trend at quarterback, once again the Bills had to endure another baptism by fire at the position.

Enter Jeff Tuel, an undrafted rookie that the Bills actually wanted to store on the practice squad this season, to make his first NFL start against one of the league's best defenses. It's been a very similar formula for the Chiefs in all of their eight victories coming into the game.

They force turnovers, get a shortened field for their offense and then capitalize. Only on Sunday against the Bills, the Chiefs cut out the middle man. The one thing Buffalo could not afford to do was turn the ball over. Thus, this is why the Chiefs remained the lone undefeated team in the NFL and the Bills were left scratching their heads.

The 14-point swing
- The turnovers seem like a good place to start, don't they? Let's backtrack to the beginning of the third quarter. The Bills were up 10-3 and got the ball to start the second half. It was a fantastic opportunity to take the ball, put up some points and potentially put the heat on a Kansas City team that isn't accustomed to playing from behind. Buffalo came out on fire, gaining 79 yards on their first four plays. An ensuing pass interference penalty on their fifth play set them up with a 1st-and-Goal opportunity from the one-yard line. Fred Jackson was stuffed on consecutive plays, leading the Bills to call the play that would change the course of the game completely. Before the play, Jeff Tuel had decided where he was going with his third-down throw. Tuel took the snap and fired it over to the general vicinity that T.J. Graham was near. Just so happened to be standing there, Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith took the gift interception and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. Had Tuel gone to just his second read, he would have seen Stevie Johnson open in the end zone. Instead, he tried to force the ball and it ended up in their own end zone. Even if it's an incompletion, the Bills still have another crack at a touchdown from the one-yard line on fourth down. It went from a potential 17-3 lead in the third quarter to a tie game, in front of a home crowd that essentially had the life sucked out from them on one play.

Fumbling the game away
Then, there was the fumble. The Bills still managed to tighten up and not let the game get away from them despite the gut-wrenching mistake to start the third quarter. It was a tied game once again and they had just forced a Kansas City three-and-out to start the fourth quarter. Not able to do anything on first or second down, the Bills faced a 3rd-and-10 from their own 13-yard line and Tuel decided to go underneath to T.J. Graham. It was a short throw in relatively tight coverage that the quarterback had to be hoping could be turned into a first down with a solid run after the catch. Not only was he wrong, but Buffalo didn't even get an opportunity to punt. Graham was holding the ball rather loosely and his trailing defender, Marcus Cooper, stripped the ball clean. As the fate of the game bounced on the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Tamba Hali scooped up the ball cleanly and scampered the short distance into the end zone. It was impressive that the Bills survived the first setback. They weren't so lucky the second time around because they were playing directly into the Chiefs' hands. Kansas City knows what to do when they have the lead, and as a good team usually does, they know how to close out a game. From that point forward, it just wasn't meant to be for Buffalo.

Once again… Goodwin > Graham
- With the season starting to run away from them a bit it could be time to get some of the younger, more promising players a little bit more time on the field than those that they have outperformed. That isn't an argument to close up shop and start playing for next year, because they have five matchups in a row that they could potentially come away victorious in. Even still, it's a bit unclear why T.J. Graham still has a much bigger role than rookie Marquise Goodwin. Against the Saints, Goodwin made a pair of spectacular catches on poorly thrown passes, and once again this week he had the 59-yard touchdown along with what should have been a highlight reel catch (before it was ruled incomplete, of course). Graham, while performing better as of late, is consistently underwhelming. He doesn't appear to have the innate ability to make a big play for his team when given an opportunity, and cost his team the game against Kansas City. That doesn't mean he should be released or anything quite drastic, but it means that the best players should be on the field the most. As far as the receivers go, Goodwin and Graham should have their roles reversed.

Was it a catch?
- Normally in a tight game with a questionable ruling on the field the referees do a good job of getting the calls right, even if it needs to go to review to confirm the call. Normally if the call was a rather unpopular one in front of a home crowd, you can see ways that the referees attempted to justify the ruling. The non-catch call and subsequent confirmation was not one of those normal times. It's hard to argue with Doug Marrone here:

"I thought it was a catch all the way. I really did. I saw him bounce; I saw it in his hand. I struggle sometimes. I'd love for someone to tell me what the definition of a catch is. He bounced once and he had it. Second time he bounced, he didn't. I was told that the first time he bounced that he lost the ball."
 
When it comes to what is a catch and what isn't a catch, the NFL at times seem to be making it up as they go along. Regardless of what that would have done for the Bills, that was the wrong call. Goodwin pinned the ball against his shoulder and helmet. Did the ball move when he initially made contact with the ground? Yes. Did the ball touch the ground because of the movement? No. After the ball had originally moved, Goodwin re-stabilized it and even rolled over with the it in the same spot. It wasn't until after his momentum had stopped that they raked the ball out of his hands. Would that play have sprung the Bills to a scoring drive? No one can really say that they definitively know either way. The one thing that can be said though is that play was a catch through and through.
 
 
Charles in check
- For the second straight week, the Buffalo Bills defense did a spectacular job at limiting a running back that previously had a lot of success in catching passes out of the backfield. Against Buffalo, New Orleans running back Darren Sproles had only four catches and gained exactly zero yards. Coming into this game, Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 41 receptions on the season and averaged 9.3 yards per catch. How did the Bills do against him? Six catches for six yards. With a quarterback as challenged as Alex Smith is at throwing the deep ball, taking away that weapon for the passing attack also took away a lot of the problems previous defenses were having against them. Charles ended the day with 90 yards on the ground, but he was essentially a non-factor throughout the game. He's one of the best running backs in the NFL, so that effort and scheme by the defense and their coordinator is one that should be commended.

Down the stretch, Tuel played like a rookie
- The first time Jeff Tuel saw action in a regular season game, it came in an incredibly tough situation for him on a shortened week under the bright lights of a primetime game. This time around, Tuel knew there was a good chance he would be playing and was prepared with a game plan tailored just for him. Early on, Tuel caught the Chiefs by surprise. They were throwing high percentage passes and taking shots only when they had a one-on-one matchups down the sideline. He didn't connect on the first deep ball, but the second throw to Marquise Goodwin for a 59-yard touchdown was a very nice throw. After that though, the Jeff Tuel sail lost its wind, so to speak. It was a combination of poor play by his pass catchers and an overall inaccuracy, but Tuel regressed as the game went along. Of course, one can also point to Kansas City's defense as being on of the top in the league and being able to adjust to the Bills attack on the fly. However, Tuel looked increasingly uncomfortable as the game continued. He was continually underthrowing his deep targets and overthrowing his players on some of the intermediate throws. His interceptions were a big part of the reason why the Chiefs came away victorious, but you can't expect much more from a player that was the team's fourth option at quarterback this season.

C.J. looking like Spiller again
- With a one-week rest period under his belt, running back C.J. Spiller had his most impressive outing of the season. Highlighted by a 61-yard run to open up the third quarter, Spiller had more bounce in his step and looked more explosive than in his previous three active games combined. Ending the day with 116 yards on just 12 carries, Spiller seemed to finally get back to his old ways. Of course, he had to remove himself from the game a couple of different times after coming up hobbling. His high ankle sprain got a lot of work against the Chiefs, so now it's going to be a big test throughout the week on whether Spiller's ankle will continue to progress or if it will regress once more. Spiller is an X-factor for the Bills, so how that ankle reacts is vital to their immediate success.

Receivers letting Tuel down
- You have to start with the obvious play of Graham fumbling the ball away, but that play and that specific player wasn't the only offender throughout Sunday. Graham also had a ball hit him right in the chest that he could have made a play on down the field, despite the ball being underthrown it's one that could have been made. That wasn't necessarily a glaring negative play, but Scott Chandler's two drops and Marcus Easley's late drop were. In the first quarter, Chandler dropped a pass right in his hands that would have converted a third-down for a first-down. He did the same thing once again in the fourth quarter. Tuel wasn't a perfect quarterback, but when the throws are there his teammates must be able to convert. They also have to hang on to the ball after the catch, too.

Bills' MVP: Defensive Line
- Throughout the game, their efforts helped key the Bills to being close to a victory despite the long odds. Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams all stood out to help the Bills limit the Chiefs offense to just nine points.

Bills' LVP: WR T.J. Graham
- You have to make the catches and hang on to the ball. It's a tough break for the young player, but the lack of ball security effectively cost the Bills this game.

Up Next: Sunday, November 10 at Pittsburgh, 1 pm.

Final Thoughts:
- Despite the result, the Buffalo Bills had the perfect game plan for the Kansas City Chiefs. They took away Jamaal Charles in the passing game, they took away Dexter McCluster in the slot for the most part and forced the Chiefs defense to have to beat them. They were on the verge of taking down the last undefeated team in the NFL with the gain of a single yard. Then, Jeff Tuel and his inexperience came back to haunt the Bills. For giving Tuel his first start of the season, the Bills did remarkably well in devising a plan of attack to put them in a position to win. In the end, it comes down to execution and the Bills made too many mistakes to come away with the victory. It was a valiant effort, but their young, inexperienced quarterback was the difference.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
Has the preseason affected your expectations for the Bills season?
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