For four quarters and a few minutes of overtime on Sunday, January 23, 2022, the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills faced off in a game that will go down in NFL history as one of the greatest ever played. . The two teams got into it like two heavyweight boxers, trading blow after blow, reaper after reaper. The Chiefs were trying to get to their fourth consecutive AFC Championship game and establish themselves as the new kings of the AFC. On the other side, the Bills were trying to advance to the NFL Conference Championship Round for the second straight year and bring salvation to their rabid and long-suffering fanbase in Western New York.
You could say that the two Chiefs and Bills quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, are the prototypes of the great signallers of the modern NFL. Big. Mobile. Explosive. And on Sunday, they made the absolute siege of the opposing defenses. Mahomes threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns, including star tight end Travis Kelce’s game-winning strike in overtime. Not to be outdone, Allen played what may have been the greatest playoff game ever by a losing quarterback, throwing for 329 yards and four touchdowns, with 201 of those yards and all four scoring to wide receiver Gabriel Davis. Allen, after a relatively slow start to his career, became a phenomenon, with his size combination, at 6ft 4in tall, his arm talent and his ability to get out of the pocket and pick up first downs with his legs . Those skills were on display when he absolutely dissected the New England Patriots in the wildcard round. Wait, Patriots? Memory? The team that was 9–4 at the start of December, had the number one seed in the AFC and looked like world beaters? Had they maintained that pace, they might have been able to play Divisional weekend and I’ll be writing this column about them after a resounding victory.
But, alas, that would not be the case. The Patriots lost three of four after their bye week, finishing the year 10-7 and having to travel to Buffalo to face the Bills on wildcard weekend. It went badly, to say the least. They were buffed by Allen and the Bills, losing 47-17, giving up more than 480 total yards, letting Allen torch them for five touchdowns, and most embarrassingly, letting the Bills score touchdowns on seven straight drives. It was one of the worst, if not the worst, playoff losses of the Bill Belichick era. But, lost in the general humiliation of that game, Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones played pretty well. He threw two interceptions, one of which was aimed at the line of scrimmage, the other was actually thrown pretty well, but expected receiver Nelson Agholor didn’t make a particularly valiant effort to catch him, and Buffalo security that Micah Hyde did.
In total, the younger Jones actually had a pretty solid rookie year, throwing for over 3,800 yards with 22 touchdowns for 13 interceptions, the most of any rookie quarterback. But the events of this weekend call into question just how good Jones has to be to pass teams like Buffalo and Kansas City, and what his absolute ceiling is as an NFL quarterback. Let’s say Jones, at his peak, is only about 80% as good as Mahomes or Allen. Is that enough to beat the Chiefs or the Bills on the road? That’s to say nothing of other promising AFC quarterbacks, such as Joe Burrow of Cincinnati or Justin Herbert of the LA Chargers. The Patriots will just have to wait and see how far Jones can take them.