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Overreaction fever was troubling multiple NFL contenders when Sunday dawned because all lost their season-openers and, oh my goodness, that meant obvious problems afoot, the championship window is closing, and the season was already hanging by a thread.
And, no, the situation was not nearly so dire for the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills after Week 1 losses. But there was a need for all three to “get the bad taste out of our mouth,” as Bills quarterback Josh Allen said last week.
Well, mission accomplished by the Bills. Buffalo dismantled the Las Vegas Raiders. 38-10, in their Orchard Park home opener.
Bills, Josh Allen Back On Track
“We just got back to who we think we are,” Allen said. “This game gives you the lowest lows and the highest highs. But I loved feeling how I felt last week. I really do, because it makes the good that much better. It forces us to be better and I want to be the best I can be playing this game, and be the best quarterback I can be for the Buffalo Bills.
“I can take the bad with the good. I understand it. And I’m just trying to let it fuel me and use it for my benefit.”
Mission accomplished by the Chiefs. They played a steady, solid game against a Jacksonville team with its own playoff aspirations, and authored a 17-9 victory on the road.
“These young guys will come on, we’re going to get better,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said matter-of-factly afterward.
Chiefs Get Stars Back
The Chiefs were bedeviled by mistakes. They had 12 penalties for 94 yards. Five of those penalties came against right tackle Jawaan Taylor.
He was perpetually misaligned or jumping the snap in the Kansas City’s Thursday night home opener but got away with it. Officials were more aware of him this game and called him twice for a false start, another time for illegal formation, twice for holding.
And still Kansas City sweated out a win in the Florida heat.
“We normally don’t do this,” coach Andy Reid said. “We’re not usually a big penalty team. We’ll get that taken care of. We’ll fix that.”
Joe Burrow Re-injures Calf
And then there was the mission failure for the Bengals. They lost 27-24 to the Baltimore Ravens. There’s legitimate cause for concern here because quarterback Joe Burrow is not right.
The Bengals, playing at home, needed to win this game not only to avoid an 0-2 start but to also avoid starting 0-2 within the AFC North after their loss to the Cleveland Browns last week. But the Bengals fell short.
“You’re going to have bad days,” Burrow said. “It’s all about how you respond.”
This is the reason not starting 0-2 matters: Since 2020 when the NFL went to seven playoff teams, only one of 23 teams that opened the season 0-2 made the playoffs.
Said another way, history becomes an opponent for any 0-2 team with designs on making the playoffs. And that obviously included the Bills, Chiefs and Bengals before this day began.
The Bengals, now 0-2, are holding on to the fact they are the lone team to recover from that 0-2 start to make the playoffs. They did it last season.
Can Bengals Rally From 0-2?
“We’ve done it before,” Burrow said. “Obviously, you don’t want to start 0-2. It’s not what we were planning on. Not what you want to do at all. But we’re going to bounce back. That’s what we do.”
But the Bengals didn’t do it while Burrow was hobbling and that’s how he finished this game and with his status for next week in question.
Burrow clearly aggravated the calf injury that forced him to miss all of training camp and the entire preseason. He suffered the injury one play before throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins to get the Bengals within a field goal with 3:58 to play.
“I would have come back out,” Burrow said of his status had he gotten a final drive that never came.
But as for next week …
“We’re going to have to wait and see the next couple of days,” Burrow said. “It’s pretty sore right now. No telling how it’s going to feel so we’re going to have to take it day by day.”
The winning formula for the Chiefs and Bills signaled a return to what those two teams ultimately hope to be this season.
Travis Kelce Returns, Scores For Chiefs
The Chiefs got defensive end Chris Jones and tight end Travis Kelce back in the lineup after both missed the opener — Jones while in a contract holdout and Kelce because of a knee injury.
And Jones collected two sacks and created double-team issues that freed teammates for 1-on-1 situations. The Chiefs finished with 4 sacks. Kelce, meanwhile, caught 4 passes and that included a key 9-yard touchdown grab.
The Bills’ winning formula is avoid mistakes. And specifically avoid Josh Allen mistakes.
That didn’t happen in the opener when Allen threw three interceptions and fumbled once in the loss to New York. He threw three touchdown passes without an interception or fumble in this game.
The Bengals problems?
They do play in a tough division and both the Ravens and Browns have playoff aspirations of their own. But the Bengals simply cannot make big plays on defense. And the offense is too inconsistent.
Why is that true of an offense led by the NFL’s highest paid player in Burrow?
“When your quarterback misses camp, it’s tough to start fast,” Burrow said. “It’s not an ideal situation.”