From the other sideline: The Bills were 13 seconds away ... and then Mahomes happened

Jill Toyoshiba/jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Just 13 seconds away.

And the road to the Super Bowl would have run through Orchard Park.

Josh Allen and Gabriel Davis connected for four touchdowns — including two inside the two-minute warning to twice give the Buffalo Bills a late lead – but the NFL’s best defense couldn’t hang on, allowing Patrick Mahomes to guide the Kansas City Chiefs into field goal range.

Harrison Butker kicked a 49 yarder to tie the score at 36-36 as time expired, the Chiefs won the coin flip and took the ball first in overtime, and Mahomes guided an eight-play, 75-yard drive, capping it with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce to send the Bills to an agonizing 42-36 defeat on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs will host the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game next Sunday. The two-time reigning AFC champs will host the title game for a fourth consecutive season.

The Bengals are in the conference title game for the first time since the 1988 season, when they defeated the Bills 21-10 on Jan. 8, 1989, in Cincinnati. Their appearance this season, after the AFC North champions knocked off the top-seeded Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville, ends the league’s longest active conference title game drought.

Davis’ third touchdown catch, a 27-yard strike on fourth and long, gave the Bills a 29-26 lead with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Then Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill for a 64-yard score to put the Chiefs back on top by four with 1:02 remaining.

Then Allen hit Davis again, this time from 19 yards out, to give the Bills a 36-33 lead with 13 seconds to go. Buffalo never touched the ball again.

Mahomes quickly guided the Chiefs into field goal range, then ended it on the first possession of the extra session.

Josh Allen completed 27 of 37 pass attempts for 329 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history with nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions in consecutive playoff games. Allen also led the Bills in rushing, with 68 yards on 11 carries.

Davis caught eight of 10 targets for 201 yards and four touchdowns, from 18, 75, 27 and 19 yards.

Stefon Diggs was limited to three catches for seven yards.

This was the game the Bills and their legions of fans had been waiting for since last season’s disappointing and resounding 38-24 defeat a year ago Monday, when Diggs stood on this same field, hands on hips, and watched the Chiefs dance through confetti while celebrating a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.

The Bills enjoyed a degree of revenge earlier this season, stomping the Chiefs 38-20 in a nationally-televised primetime game here on Oct. 10, before Mahomes and the two-time AFC champions hit their stride. The Chiefs lost four of their first seven games to start the season. They had gone 10-1 since, entering the rematch with the Bills, a stretch that includes last weekend’s wildcard blowout victory against Pittsburgh.

The Bills’ regular season victory in Kansas City proved they were capable of walking into hostile territory and dethroning the Chiefs, even though much has changed since that game, namely, on the Bills’ side, the loss of All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White to a season-ending torn ACL on Thanksgiving.

The Bills lost their next two games, at home against the Patriots in a relentless windstorm and on the road at Tampa, where they rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit to force overtime before falling to Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions. That performance steeled their resolve.

Buffalo won its next four games, including a victory in New England, and closed the regular season by celebrating a second consecutive AFC East championship, capturing back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1990 and ’91 seasons.

The Bills followed that feat by eviscerating the New England Patriots 47-17 last weekend in the first home playoff game with a full crowd in a generation.

Josh Allen led the epic beatdown, guiding Buffalo to seven touchdowns in seven drives as the Bills became the first team in NFL history to not punt, attempt a field goal or commit a turnover in a single game.

Against Kansas City, Allen and the Bills’ offense continued where they left off.

The Bills were aggressive from the start, a welcome change after they were doomed by settling for field goals in last year’s conference title game.

Allen led the Bills to a touchdown on their opening possession, converting two fourth downs along the way, once running it himself and then pitching to Devin Singletary, who scored on a 1-yard run to give Buffalo a 7-0 lead. It was his ninth touchdown in six games.

The Bills became the first team to go for it on fourth down twice on the opening possession in a playoff game in the last 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Chiefs answered with a touchdown on their opening possession. Patrick Mahomes ran for 49 yards on three carries, and on third and five from the 8-yard line, had forever to survey the field before taking off and diving for the pylon, knotting the score at 7-7.

The Bills squandered excellent field position in the second quarter, taking over on their own 43-yard line, but went three and out, punting after three consecutive hand offs to Singletary. It was a curious decision to run the ball, rather than attacking deep, considering the Chiefs were missing star safety Tyrann Mathieu, who was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Mahomes then led a 12-play, 86-yard touchdown drive, connecting with Byron Pringle for a two-yard score to give the Chiefs a 14-7 lead.

This time, the Bills answered, with Allen going 5-for-5 for 55 yards and running twice for 20 yards. He hit Davis for an 18-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 with 37 seconds remaining in the first half.

Butker missed a 50-yard field goal attempt wide right as time expired.

The Chiefs opened the second half with an eight-minute field goal drive to take a 17-14 lead, then the Bills went three and out, handing off to Singletary, who picked up one yard on second and 3, then Isaiah McKenzie, who picked up one more on third and 2, before punting.

Five plays later, the Chiefs were in the end zone. Mecole Hardman sliced through the defense for a 25-yard touchdown run, giving Kansas City a 23-14 lead after a missed extra point.

Allen needed one play, connecting with Gabriel Davis for a 75-yard touchdown pass, finally testing the Chiefs’ defense deep and chopping the deficit to 23-21.

It was the Bills’ longest play from scrimmage this season, tied for Allen’s longest pass in his career. It was the second-longest play in franchise playoff history.

In the fourth quarter, Tyreek Hill returned a punt 45 yards to the Buffalo 16-yard line, but the Bills limited Kansas City to a short field goal and 26-21 lead with about nine minutes to play.

Though the Bills twice took a late lead, they couldn’t hold it.

Bills Mafia will savor last week’s performance against the Patriots for years to come.

The balance of power in the AFC East has shifted. There is no doubt.

Allen and the Bills run the division owned by the Patriots for two decades and should continue to wield the scepter for the foreseeable future.

But there’s an undeniable empty feeling about the way this season ends.

The Bills losing in the playoffs at Kansas City is not an improvement over last season.

In many respects, it’s a step back.

The Bills produced a worse regular season record than last year.

Allen and Diggs had lesser stats, despite an additional regular season game.

And, of course, this year’s playoff exit comes a round earlier.

There were positives.

Dawson Knox emerged as one of the game’s top tight ends.

Safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde were named first- and second-team All-Pro, respectively.

And the defense finished the season ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total yards, passing yards and points allowed during the regular season.

The 17-year playoff drought is ancient history. The Bills have made the postseason four times in five seasons. They have their franchise quarterback. They own the AFC East.

But, again, they couldn’t get past the Chiefs.

A return to the Super Bowl will have to wait.