BY DAVE SKRETTA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs thought they had beaten the Buffalo Bills with one of the most unexpected and audacious of plays.
Then the roar inside Arrowhead Stadium was silenced, soon to be replaced by a cascade of boos.
The Bills had just taken the lead on Tyler Bass’ field goal with 1:54 to go when Patrick Mahomes marched the Chiefs across midfield. He dropped back, spotted favorite target Travis Kelce across the middle, hit him between the numbers — then watched the ex-high school quarterback throw across the field to Kadarius Toney, who finished off the 49-yard touchdown catch.
The only problem with the sandlot-style play? The flag back at the line of scrimmage.
Toney, of all people, had lined up offside.
The play came back, Mahomes proceeded to throw incomplete on three straight plays, and the Bills, in desperate need of a win, escaped with a 20-17 victory, while Kansas City was left to seethe about the officials for the second straight week.
“It’s tough to swallow,” Mahomes said. “To have a flag change the outcome of the game — I’ve never had offensive offside called. If it does, they warn you. There wasn’t a warning the entire game. Then you make a call like that in the final minute?”
Last week, the Chiefs (8-5) were left to complain about the officials who didn’t throw a flag. They were driving for a potential tying score in Green Bay when a Packers defender ran right through Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a deep throw over the middle, but there was no pass interference called and the Chiefs wound up losing 27-19.
“Another game, we’re talking about the refs,” Mahomes said. “It’s not what we want for the NFL.”
Even the normally even-tempered Chiefs coach, Andy Reid, was left boiling about the offside call on Sunday.
“Normally if it’s even close, you get a warning. The head coach gets a warning,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t have a protractor out there, but that’s a bit embarrassing. I’ve been in the league a long time and I haven’t had one like that.”
The flag even caught Bills quarterback Josh Allen by surprise.
“I originally thought it was on us,” he said. “It’s not a flag they usually call.”
The night turned out to be so bad for Kansas City that, while defensive tackle Chris Jones was speaking to reporters afterward, tiles began falling on people from the ceiling. Jones decided that was a good time to call it quits on the interviews.
The Chiefs, who have lost four of their past six, had plenty of opportunities to keep Sunday’s game from coming down to the end. But just like they have so often this season, they beat themselves with turnovers and penalties.
They were flagged seven times for 45 yards — that 5-yarder on Toney will be the one everyone remembers — while Mahomes was picked off on a batted ball and Rashee Rice fumbled the ball away late in the third quarter.
Too many mistakes for a team with too many deficiencies to overcome.
In past years, the Chiefs seemed as if they could win no matter what. And proof often came at the expense of the Bills. There was that 38-24 victory in the AFC championship game a few years ago, and the 42-36 overtime win in the divisional round the following year, when the Chiefs needed a mere 13 seconds to get within range for the tying field goal in regulation.
They looked as if they might finally conjure up some of that old magic on Sunday night, when Kelce threw a brazen lateral across the field to the oft-injured Toney, who has had a rocky year-plus since Kansas City acquired him in a trade from the Giants.
Then, the flag came down on the field. And the end looked like so many for the Chiefs this season.
“Defensively, I thought we played well. Offensively, we were getting better,” Reid said. “The second half was a little bit better, so we’re actually making progress through this. That’s what is disappointing about all of this.”
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