NFL Playoffs: History Says Chiefs-Bills Divisional Round Matchup Will Be a Lopsided Affair
It is the most-anticipated game of the NFL Playoffs Divisional Round. And why wouldn’t it be? The Kansas City Chiefs, trying to become just the fourth franchise in NFL history to go to three straight Super Bowls, hosting the Buffalo Bills, the team the Chiefs beat a season ago in the AFC Championship Game.
It is a dream matchup for the divisional round. Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen. Tyreek Hill vs. Stefon Diggs.
But if history is any guide, we are all about to experience a big of a letdown, outside the fan base of the winning team.
This will be the fifth time in history that the Bills and Chiefs have met in the playoffs, going all the way back to Lenny Dawson and Jack Kemp in the 1967 AFL Championship Game. In between, there was a Joe Montana vs. Jim Kelly matchup to decide the AFC title.
So much history, so many stars, so much on the line.
And yet … not a single close game in the bunch. None of the four meetings were decided by less than 14 points. Here’s a look back, and a look ahead:
The Chiefs advance to the first-ever AFL-NFL Championship Game. You might know it as the ‘Super Bowl’
After six years of bitter feuding, draft-pick poaching and free-agent wars, the established National Football League and upstart American Football League finally come to the shared conclusion that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. The two leagues announced a merger in 1966 that would take effect in time for the 1970 season, but in the interim, there would be a new “AFL-NFL Championship Game” debuting at the Los Angeles Coliseum in January 1967.
It would be Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt who would go down in pop-culture history as having given the title game its moniker, the “Super Bowl,” after watching one of his children play with a Super Ball toy, sparking the phrase of destiny.
But before the game got its popular name, two teams had to play in it. On the NFL side, the Green Bay Packers were already well into their dynasty under Vince Lombardi, and they would defeat the new kids on the block, the Dallas Cowboys in the first of two straight NFL Championship Games to reach the first Super Bowl.
In the AFL, it would be Hunt’s Chiefs who rose to the historic occasion, beating the Bills handily in the AFL Championship Game, 31-7. Dawson threw a pair of touchdown passes, including one to the great Otis Taylor, while Mike Garrett, the former USC star who was succeeded on the Trojans by a running back named O.J. Simpson, ran for a pair of scores in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
The first AFL-NFL Championship Game was a bit of a flop in real time. While both CBS and NBC broadcast the game live, the Coliseum was barely half-full and the game was even worse, with the Packers dominating, 35-10. It all got better with age.
The era of Joe Montana and Super Bowl Bills comes to an end in the same game
The only time before this Sunday that the Bills and Chiefs met in a playoff game that wasn’t the AFL/AFC Championship Game came in the 1991 season, the second of the Bills’ four straight trips to the Super Bowl.
The Bills took care of business in this Divisional Round game very quickly, as Kelly connected with Andre Reed for a pair of first-half touchdowns and James Lofton caught a third Kelly touchdown pass in the third quarter for a 24-0 lead.
And as we know about the early 1990s Bills, they only come back from enormous second-half deficits, not give them away, to this game was over fairly quickly.
The starter for the Chiefs at quarterback in 1991 was Steve DeBerg, and the Chiefs obviously realized if you want to have the kind of success that a franchise like San Francisco 49ers enjoyed in the 1980s, you have to replace DeBerg with Joe Montana. And so they did, trading for Montana after the 1992 season.
And the move paid immediate dividends for the Chiefs, who beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime in the Wild Card round, then overcame a 10-0 first-quarter deficit to the Houston Oilers behind three Montana touchdown passes to reach the AFC Championship Game.
But the Montana Magic ended there. The Bills advanced to their fourth straight and final Super Bowl with a 30-13 victory. This one was actually a game entering the fourth quarter, with the Bills clinging to a 20-13 lead. But Thurman Thomas’ third touchdown of the day in the fourth quarter sealed the record fourth straight AFC title for the Bills.
Neither the Bills nor Montana would ever play in another Super Bowl. Until now?
The Chiefs look to go back-to-back on the Bills Sunday
Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were the first and third picks of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Bills say, “Thank you.”
Buffalo got their quarterback at No. 7, a guy from Wyoming named Josh Allen. And all he’s done is lead the Bills to the playoffs each of the past three seasons, including a trip back to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since that Montana-Kelly showdown in 1994.
Last year, it was Allen and Mahomes doing battle, with Kansas City coming out ahead in the middle of their run of consecutive Super Bowls. The Bills found out the hard way what several of the Chiefs’ playoff opponents in the Mahomes era have discovered: No lead is safe.
The Bills raced to a quick 9-0 lead, but saw Kansas City score three touchdowns in a 10-minute span of the second quarter to take a 21-9 lead and never look back in a 38-24 victory.
Now the teams meet again on Sunday in the Divisional Round. Last week, the Bills scored touchdowns on all seven of their possessions against the New England Patriots, but the Chiefs scored touchdowns on six straight against the Steelers.
Maybe let the Chiefs score first, Josh?
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference