Now 5-4 with six teams already ahead of them, the Chiefs likely will have to win five of their last seven games to have the 10-6 record most people think will be the cutoff for inclusion in the AFC playoffs.
Even if they get one of those wins Sunday night in Houston, where they will be favored, they've still got a killer closing stretch -- albeit with four of the six games at Arrowhead Stadium. But those four opponents are AFC East leader New England, AFC West leader Denver, San Diego (also 5-4) and AFC North co-leader Cincinnati.
Did we mention that the two road games are at NFC playoff contenders Dallas and the Giants?
But after a day when Trent Green played one of his worst games as a Chief -- three interceptions, a lost fumble in Buffalo territory and six sacks -- Kansas City fans have to be asking if this team can win in Houston, much less win four of its last six games against playoff contenders.
Buffalo was a winnable road game, and the Chiefs' embattled defense kept Kansas City in it.
The defense limited Buffalo to 209 total yards, the team's best effort since holding Baltimore to 207 last year when Kansas City snapped its 0-3 start on a Monday night. The Bills possessed the ball for only 25 minutes, 17 seconds. The Chiefs held the Bills to only seven points on four drives that began at the Kansas City 12, 15, 27 and 30. They held Willis McGahee, a 100-yard rusher in 11 of 18 games coming in, to only 66 yards and a 3.3-yard average. They knocked starter Kelly Holcomb out of the game early in the second quarter.
"They basically got nothing," said defensive end Jared Allen, who had two sacks and the KO hit on Holcomb that forced a fumble at the Chiefs 7. "But they did make two plays."
The two plays were touchdown passes of 33 and 29 yards from Bills backup J.P. Losman to wide receiver Lee Evans, both over Chiefs corner Eric Warfield despite decent coverage on both.
But then, the Bills didn't need much offense when the Kansas City attack never got closer than the Buffalo 14, that coming on the drive for Lawrence Tynes' only field goal in three tries.
There was a reason for some of the offensive woes. Buffalo does, after all, have the NFL's top-ranked pass defense. And the Chiefs played without Willie Roaf for a second straight game. Roaf has missed 5 3/4 of the Chiefs' nine games, and pass protection clearly is a problem without him guarding Green's blind side. Harassed by Bills pressure all day, Green amassed a 41.7 passer rating -- his worst since November 2001, his first year in Kansas City -- as he ran his season TD-to-interception ratio to 7-6.
"We had opportunities early in the game to get up on them," said Green, who lost a fumble at the Bills 27 and was sacked on a third-down play at the Bills 30 in the first half. "When Losman makes the big play to make it 7-3, the crowd got back in it. We should have prevented any of that from happening."
Instead, the Chiefs prevented themselves from remaining in the thick of the playoff chase.
"With seven games left, and the way the AFC is unfolding, we're not giving ourselves much room for error," Green said.
Lawrence Tynes might someday plan a visit to Niagara Falls, but he wouldn't necessarily want to work around there.
The Chiefs kicker saw his string of consecutive field goals reach 14 after he hit his first try from 35 yards to give the Chiefs a 3-0 lead. Kicking into the traditionally tough winds of Ralph Wilson Stadium, Tynes then missed wide right from 44. When he tried to compensate for the wind, he missed wide left from 43.
"I still haven't figured it out," Tynes said of winds that before the game were measured between 18 and 26 mph. "This is just a tough place to kick. Hell, you saw it. The wind moved the ball all around!
"I was kicking well in pre-game, but that isn't the game. I think the conditions changed 50 times during the game.
"I've just got to take this for what it is and try to get better. And I'll be thankful that I don't have to kick up here every week."
It was only slightly consoling that Bills kicker Ryan Lindell also missed from 28 and 31 yards.
Tempers flared several times during the hotly contested game, and Chiefs defenders Eric Hicks and Lionel Dalton were ejected along with Buffalo center Chris Villarrial after a fracas broke out following the two-minute warning.
But the teams had been fighting before that, and some of Kansas City's most unlikely players were combatants.
On the day he became only the fourth NFL player since 1970 to start a 200th consecutive game, Chiefs guard Will Shields was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul after throwing a punch at Bills linebacker London Fletcher, who had taken what Shields thought was an unnecessary shot at Green while blocking on Angelo Crowell's interception and return to the Chiefs 30.
"I thought it was late, and I asked the official who said it was part of the play," Green said of the efforts of Fletcher, a former teammate when both played for the Rams. "I saw two flags thrown and I just assumed it was offsetting penalties."
It wasn't. The extra 15 yards gave Buffalo a prime scoring opportunity that failed when the Bills missed a chip-shot field goal. But no one was criticizing Shields afterward.
"I thought it was great. I thanked him on the sideline," Green said. "It's great to know he's got my back in those situations.
Larry Johnson's best run of a game in which he rushed for 132 yards and added 41 more on receptions may have come on defense.
Linebacker Jeff Posey's recovery and return of a Trent Green fumble from the Bills 27 was headed toward the end zone when Johnson made a cross-country trek and caught Posey from behind at the Chiefs 12.
Johnson's effort proved even more pivotal when Jared Allen forced a Kelly Holcomb fumble at the 7, killing the Bills threat.
But Johnson refused to talk to the media afterward, just as he had all week since becoming Kansas City's full-time starter in the wake of Priest Holmes' season-ending injury.
The home team has won 10 of last 11 meetings in the Chiefs-Bills series.
WR Samie Parker should make a return to the starting lineup Sunday night in Houston. Though he was cleared to play last week, the Chiefs decided to make him inactive for the Bills game. Parker the teams only true deep threat could have helped the Chiefs against Buffalo. If nothing more his speed would have kept the Bills defense more honest.
T Willie Roaf is unlikely to play against the Houston Texans this weekend. Roaf who is recovering from a partially torn hamstring has missed two consecutive games for the Chiefs. Tackle Jordan Black has struggled in filling in for the All-Pro Left tackle but Kansas City has no other options and the former Notre Dame standout will have to improve in the line if fire. Roaf might not be available to the Chiefs for another two games.
Post Season at Risk for Kansas City
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