Even when the Bills don’t play, they rise.
Heading into the weekend, the Bills were second in the NFL in total defense at 281.5 yards per game. But they jumped into first when the Niners gave up 529 yards of offense in a 44-23 thrashing by the Chiefs.
After fattening up on some weak offenses early in the season, the Niners have allowed 72 points and 818 yards of offense in successive losses to the Falcons and Chiefs — who continue to lead the NFL in scoring at a shade under 32 points a game.
The Niners were simply no match for Patrick Mahomes and K.C., which scored 30 points in the second and half and averaged a gaudy 9.1 yards a play on the day. The Chiefs had six touchdown drives, the longest of which took 5:02 off the clock.
The Bills’ defense got stronger as the game went on in a 24-20 win at Kansas City last week. The Niners wilted on their home field, as Mahomes and Co. shredded them for chunk plays. The Chiefs had 10 plays of 20 or more yards against the San Francisco defense.
The Chiefs ran the ball effectively against the Niners, gaining 112 yards on 21 carries, a 5.3 average. They had just 68 yards on 18 tries (3.8 per carry) against the Bills and their longest run was 11 yards.
It was fashionable to elevate the Niners as a Super Bowl contender when they traded for star running back Christian McCaffrey last week. But the last two losses raise serious questions about a defense that was clearly not as good as its ranking after the first month of the season.
Who would have guessed that after seven weeks, the Seattle Seahawks would be sitting alone atop the NFC West, half a game ahead of the defending Super Bowl champion Rams and two ahead of the Niners and Arizona Cardinals?
Seattle won its second in a row, stunning the Chargers on the road, 37-23. A reborn Geno Smith threw for 210 yards, the Seahawks rushed for 214 yards, and the defense forced Justin Herbert into two turnovers.
The Eagles, who were on the bye this week, remain the only unbeaten team in the league. But the Chiefs’ rout of the Niners on Sunday will only confirm what many observers believe: That the two best teams in the NFL are the ones with the two best quarterbacks in the sport: Mahomes and Josh Allen.
Mahomes threw for 423 yards and three touchdowns against the Niners. It was the ninth 400-yard passing day of his career, counting one in the playoffs last year against the Steelers. His career high is 478 yards against the Rams in 2018.
Allen still leads the NFL in passing yards per game at 330.0. Mahomes leads in total passing yards with 2,159, but has played one more game than Allen. Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow has 2,097. Burrow passed for 481 yards — 345 in the first half — in a 35-17 win over the Falcons.
It’s remarkable how close Allen and Mahomes are in some passing categories. They’ve both completed 66.9 percent of their passes this season. Mahomes leads the NFL in passer rating at 109.5. Allen is second at 109.1. Allen is now the all-time leader in QB rating at 106.2.
Mahomes is now 13-2 in his career against top 5-rated defenses. One of the losses, of course, was a week ago against the Bills.
Is He Owned?
This week’s fantasy football finds are Carolina running backs D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, whose roles were expanded when the Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey to the Niners last week.
Hubbard, the nominal starter upon McCaffrey’s departure, rushed nine times for 63 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown, before leaving with an ankle injury in the Panthers’ 21-3 victory over the Bucs on Sunday.
Foreman, who became the lead back when Hubbard left, had 118 yards rushing on 15 carries, including a 60-yard jaunt. Foreman, who played at Texas and was a third-round pick by the Texans in 2017, had two catches for 27 yards. He rushed for 566 yards and three TDs for the Titans last year when Derrick Henry was sidelined by injury.
Hubbard, a second-year man out of Oklahoma State, is expected to be back for next Sunday’s game against Atlanta. He’s currently rostered in only 26% of ESPN leagues. Foreman is on 35 percent of ESPN fantasy rosters. Either would be worth grabbing if you need a back.
More Mahomes: The Chiefs star is now 55-15 in 70 career regular-season games. The 55 wins tie Hall of Famer Ken Stabler for the most in a QB’s first 70 starts in the Super Bowl era. Mahomes has 21,150 passing yards and 171 TDs, also records through 70 games.
The Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman became the first receiver to have two rushing touchdowns and a TD reception in the same game in the Super Bowl era. JuJu Smith-Schuster and MarquesValdez-Scantling became the first pair of KC wideouts to each go over 100 yards receiving in the same game in more than 20 years. Tyreek who?
It’s no surprise to see Mahomes and Allen rated 1-2 in the NFL in passer rating. But who would have imagined Smith would be third? Smith, who started two games over six seasons from 2015-20, has been the comeback story of the year for the Seahawks.
I’d say Brian Daboll is the frontrunner for Coach of the Year. The Giants are one of eight teams that have trailed in every game this season. They’re the only one with a winning record. Daboll’s squad is the first in NFL history to start 6-1 or better with every game decided by one possession.
Jerry Sullivan is an award-winning journalist who joined the News 4 team in 2020 after three decades as a sports columnist at The Buffalo News. See more of his work here.