ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – The Buffalo Bills fumbled away a chance to declare themselves contenders in the AFC.
First it was running back Bryce Brown having the ball punched out his hands three steps from the goal line on the first drive of the second half. Then Leodis McKelvin lost his grip on the ball during a punt return that set up Alex Smith's 8-yard touchdown with 8:59 left that secured the Kansas City Chiefs 17-13 win on Sunday.
"I take this ... to heart," said McKelvin, expressing his frustrations during a profanity-laced postgame interview. "I fumbled the ball. It hurt us. But we still had a chance to come back and win the game. (Stuff) happens in the game. But you've still got to overcome it."
The Bills failed to do so in squandering a 13-3 fourth-quarter lead and dropping to 5-4 coming out of their bye week in the thick of a jumbled AFC playoff picture.
Buffalo had a two-game win streak snapped and fell to 2-4 against conference rivals.
"We definitely lost an opportunity," coach Doug Marrone said. "Now we're going to have to fight our way back and find a way to win our next game."
Buffalo must rebound during a short week in which it travels to play division rival Miami on Thursday. And it might take time to get over this type of meltdown.
The game turned during a 4:31 span early in the fourth quarter.
Jamaal Charles scored on a 39-yard scamper on fourth-and-1 to cut Buffalo's lead to 13-10. Smith's touchdown came two plays after Anthony Sherman forced McKelvin's fumble, and recovered it at the Bills 26.
The Bills blew a game in which their defense had six sacks, including three by Marcell Dareus and two by Jerry Hughes.
The offense, instead sputtered and lacked finish after Kyle Orton capped the opening drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan.
In four trips inside the Chiefs 20, the Bills settled for two field goals, Brown lost a fumble and Orton threw four-straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs at the Chiefs 15 with 2:32 remaining. Three of Orton's passes were knocked down by defensive back Ron Parker, including an underthrown attempt to Sammy Watkins at the 1 on fourth down. Orton also sailed a throw past Hogan in the end zone.
"We were right there," Orton said. "We were knocking on the door and really thought we'd get it done and I wish I had the third down pass back to (Chris) Hogan. It just didn't work out."
Brown's lost fumble certainly didn't help either.
Parker had a hand in that one, too, by punching the ball loose. The ball bounced into the end zone, where tight end Scott Chandler had it go off his fingers and out for a touchback.
"When we get down there, we've just got to do a better job," Brown said. "At the end of the day, we've got to finish."
This marked the fourth time during Buffalo's 14-season playoff drought the Bills lost after compiling a 5-3 record. Buffalo hasn't had six or more wins through nine games since 1999, the last time it made the playoffs.
Orton went 29 of 48 for 259 yards passing. Brown had 35 yards rushing and 65 yards receiving.
Watkins had 27 yards receiving in playing despite missing two practices after hurting his groin on Wednesday. Running back Fred Jackson had 10 yards rushing in his first game after missing three weeks with a groin injury.
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