KANSAS CITY — So what does this all mean?
What conclusion do we draw from the Bills’ 41-7 domination of the Chiefs in the NFL season-opener on Sunday afternoon at the New Arrowhead?
Is Buffalo that good?
Probably not ... but clearly this team is improved from the 4-12 crew a year ago.
Is Kansas City that bad?
Probably not ... but this isn’t nearly the squad that won the admittedly weak AFC West and made the playoffs last season.
On a sunny, 75-degree day, before a turnout some 8,000 below capacity, the Bills’ took the crowd out of the game in the first three minutes thanks to a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff and a touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to tight end Scott Chandler who had a career day ... and then some.
By the end of the first quarter, Chiefs fans were booing their own ... and it only got worse.
In the fourth quarter, the game was so out of hand, the Bills were playing backups heavily on both sides of the ball.
KANSAS CITY coach Todd Haley, when asked when he sensed Buffalo was better-prepared, admitted, “Probably the first kickoff return.”
Bills’ boss Chan Gailey agreed.
“It happened from the very start,” he said. “When you’re able to get a turnover and put it in the end zone, it gives (the crowd) very few opportunities to get riled up.
“(Crowd reaction) was a concern to us ... that it would be an issue. (But) after we scored a couple of times, (the crowd) was more concerned about getting on their own team than they were about disrupting us.”
For Haley, n his third year, the embarrassment before KC’s fans, in the first game, was as bad as the score.
“It’s pretty clear-cut,” he lamented. “It doesn’t need a lot of description. We did the things that, if you do them, you’re going to get beat ... turning the ball over (three times), not stopping the run (Buffalo had 163 yards on 39 carries), not converting third downs (3-of-13), allowing big returns (28 yards on a punt by the Bills’ Roscoe Parrish) and missing kicks (49-yard field goal).”
The frustrated coach added, “I’m taking 100 percent responsibility for our team not being ready to go. You can point the finger right at Todd Haley.
“The Buffalo Bills were better-prepared today than the Kansas City Chiefs.”
BUT AS elated as he was with his team’s fast start, Gailey cautioned, “Where we are right now, all those people who thought we were as bad as they thought we were ... we’re not. And there’s (also) going to be a lot of people that are going to put us on a little bit of a pedestal ... and we’re not there yet.”
Fitzpatrick agreed, noting, “It’s encouraging ... but it’s just one game. (Still) I think it probably surprised some people for us to score that much. I told the guys, that was the first time in the NFL I’ve ever come out of a game for good reasons ... to be on that side of the score.
“The thing we harped on all off-season is expecting to win and we came into this game expecting to win. Now, with that winning feeling, we’re hoping that our confidence is high and our expectation is winning games, not only hanging in there, but beating teams.”
Even rookie first round draft choice Marcell Dareus, used to flogging opponents when he was at Alabama, was cautious.
“This is not the end, it’s the beginning ... one step forward,” the defensive tackle said. “But I am excited for the fans of Buffalo with this win.”
So is Gailey.
“I told the team, I do think we’re improved over last year,” he admitted. “I thought we would play well and our men went out and did some very good things today.”
And one thing they did particularly well was emphatically beat the Chiefs and Haley, who fired Gailey from his offensive coordinator’s job at Kansas City just before the start of the 2009 season.
When asked about handling his former boss in his own stadium, Gailey conceded, “It feels good ... you’re lying if you say it doesn’t.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)