Published November 20, 2014
It's been a long time since the Buffalo Bills were worried about anybody putting them on a pedestal.
A franchise that was once the gold-standard in the AFC hasn't sniffed success in years. The Bills were 4-12 last season, haven't had a winning record since 2004, and haven't been to the playoffs since some of their players were in grade school.
Get ready for the spotlight, boys, even if it's just for a week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed four touchdown passes Sunday, two of them to journeyman tight end Scott Chandler, and the Bills romped to a 41-7 victory over the defending AFC West-champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
It was the most lopsided season-opening loss in Chiefs history, and their worst home loss since a 45-0 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers 35 years ago.
"We're not there yet," Bills coach Chan Gailey warned. "I told the team that. I do think we are improved over last year and I thought we'd play well. I believe in our men, and they went out and did some very good things today."
It started with the opening kickoff.
Dexter McCluster fumbled the return to give Buffalo prime field position, and Fitzpatrick hit Chandler moments later from 4 yards out for a 7-0 lead. The Bills tacked on another score later in the first quarter and never looked back.
"We felt like we knew we were going in for seven when we got that turnover," said Fitzpatrick, who finished with 208 yards passing. "That was a great start to the game."
Fred Jackson added 112 yards rushing for the Bills, who hadn't scored 40 points in an opener since beating the Los Angeles Rams 40-7 on Sept. 6, 1992.
Chandler came in with one catch in 14 career games. He had five for 63 yards against Kansas City's inept pass defense, which was missing Eric Berry most of the game after the star safety sustained a knee injury in the first quarter.
"We left some guys open that I think we'll wish we had back, and they scored points on us when we didn't execute," Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker said. "Those things cost you."
Matt Cassel threw for 119 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and Jamaal Charles led the Chiefs with 56 yards on the ground — even though he was facing a defense that ranked last in stopping the run last season.
The Bills didn't have much problem stopping it Sunday.
They didn't have much problem with anything.
"We had a chance to make some plays and we didn't make them," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said.
Even when Kansas City put together a promising drive, things went haywire.
Cassel appeared to find tight end Leonard Pope from 19 yards out for a touchdown early in the second quarter. The officials reviewed the play, though, and determined Pope's left knee came down out of bounds while he was still juggling the ball.
Cassel was sacked by Spencer Johnson on the next play, and Ryan Succop missed a field goal.
Buffalo promptly went 50 yards for a field goal and a 17-0 lead, and added another field goal after Charles fumbled on the first play of the Chiefs' ensuing possession.
The Bills scored 20 or more points four times last season; they had that many with 5:38 left in the first half Sunday.
"When things started going bad, they just went bad," Chiefs defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said. "Landslide."
Kansas City finally mounted a scoring drive that Cassel finished off with a short touchdown pass to Charles, but Chandler added his second TD grab after the break, and Fitzpatrick tossed his fourth TD pass when he found Donald Jones later in the third quarter.
There was a somber atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium most of the day, and not just because of the score. As one of the main venues selected by the NFL for Sept. 11 tributes, a field-sized American flag was unfurled before the game. American Idol winner David Cook sang the national anthem, and military flyovers were conducted before kickoff and again at halftime.
Gailey earned a measure of revenge against a team that fired him a couple of years ago.
"It feels good," Gailey said. "You're lying if you say it doesn't. It does."
Notes: Gailey was the Chiefs' offensive coordinator under Herm Edwards in 2008. He was fired during the 2009 preseason. ... The Chiefs were 7-1 at Arrowhead last season. ... Kelvin Sheppard's recovery of McCluster's fumble was the first by a Bills rookie in a season opener since Dan Jilek and Ken Jones each had one against Miami on Sept. 13, 1976. ... Bills CB Terrence McGee left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return.