Pro football is a speed game, and the Buffalo Bills didn't have enough to get past the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs for a second straight year.
How fast players are able to move is only part of it. The Bills obviously lacked the quick decision-making ability from the sideline that is necessary to close games out when kicking off with 13 seconds remaining in regulation with a three-point lead.
While coach Sean McDermott refused on Tuesday to break down the breakdowns that unfolded in the Chiefs' eventual 42-36 overtime victory, he did boldly state that the Bills are "right there" while acknowledging the need for more speed on his defense.
That defense finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in most categories but was exposed as one of the weakest in NFL postseason history by Kansas City, which recorded 30 first downs, 552 yards and 7.6 yards per play. The Chiefs also finished with a 9-minute advantage in time of possession.
"That speed is unique obviously with [WR] Tyreek Hill and 17 [Mecole Hardman] and 13 [Byron Pringle]," McDermott said. "They've got a lot of guys that can fly, and it does impact the game, it impacts strategy, it impacts game-planning. And then on the field, as you saw, it impacts the result, right?
"... We're going to continue to build this as well, and we're going to continue to address areas of need, and I think not just this year, but evolving with how the game continues to evolve, that we have to continue to evolve with it and try and be out in front of it all the time. So that's what we have to do, and one of the areas that we have to continue to look at: Matching team speed on both sides of the ball."
Here are other key points from a wide-ranging Zoom meeting with reporters that lasted nearly 40 minutes:
■ The kickoff.
Much like the final 13 seconds of regulation, McDermott would not provide details of what led to the decision to kick the ball into the end zone on the play that set up the fateful series. The kickoff resulted in a touchback, giving the Chiefs possession at their 25-yard line with no time going off the clock.
"It comes down to execution," McDermott said. "We didn't execute. So I hope you can appreciate where I'm coming from on that. That's really where I was after the game, that's where I am now. And as I said earlier, disappointing ... because we pride ourselves on detail, we pride ourselves on execution and being great in situational football. We practice that tirelessly here ... so that's disappointing to get that result. But it's even more disappointing knowing that we prepare and practice those situations a ton here in Buffalo
"... We're not going to run from it. We all have to face it and then learn from it. And I believe that we're heading in the right direction as an organization, and I believe we will definitely accomplish our goal, the ultimate goal we have, and that'll be a part of the reason why — as long as we face it, and that's what we need to do right now."
■ Quarterback Josh Allen will be involved in the search for a new offensive coordinator if Brian Daboll leaves for a head-coaching job.
"He will be in the loop," McDermott assured everyone.
Allen on Monday said he would be a "huge advocate for someone in the building."
That someone is quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey.
As far as that goes, McDermott would prefer to promote from within as well.
"That's where you get your return on investment," he said. "That's where you try and foster morale and camaraderie again and ... just continue to invest in the people we have in our building.
"And there's two sides to that, right? So they've got to show that they have what it takes to put in the time, and then you'd love to be able to do that in every situation. So we try and do that as much as we can."
■ On Allen's continued growth as a player and leader following 2020's breakout season: "There were some, I'm sure, questions remaining for people, and I think that he's answered all of those questions. In my mind, he has at least. And you're always looking as an organization to find a quarterback that you say, `hey, that ... he can do it and take your team to the highest level.' And I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, Josh Allen has answered all those questions."
■ McDermott wouldn't comment on whether he thought Hill deserved a taunting penalty for flashing a peace sign at Bills defenders as he was finishing off a 64-yard touchdown reception, but thanked Kim Jones for asking about it.
"I appreciate you asking that, Kim," he said. "You’re very observant, but I’m not going to go any further."
A penalty there would have given the Bills the option to turn a 33-yard extra point into a 48-yard attempt or take the yards on the kickoff.
■ The Buffalo experience.
"This is a unique place and proud to say I'm a part of it," McDermott said. "And you know, Buffalo is a winning organization. And I'm glad to say it's back in that in that realm again."
■ Not there yet.
As Marsellus Wallace, the fabulous character from Pulp Fiction, might say, the Bills are pretty freaking far from OK.
"If you saw that plane ride on the way home, you would not come away with the impression that we're fine," McDermott said. "I think everyone ... has the single-minded focus to improve, starting with me, and committed to accomplishing one goal.
"We're going to be human here and try and get a little bit of rest from this long haul of the season that we were just in and try to get back on it. So that will be led by [general manager] Brandon [Beane] and myself and trying to get us to where we're trying to go as quickly as we can. We'll work tirelessly to do that, go about it the right way and, again, continue to try and develop and improve what we're doing here."
■ Recovery is a critical part of the process.
"That's part of the job," McDermott said. "That's part of what we sign up for. ... There's a mental component that comes with with the job, that you've got to be able to stay consistent and mentally tough.
"But this is what we're cut out for, this is what we do and and this will be part of the story. And you've got to use this as strength to move you forward and to drive even harder towards the goal that we have."
The Bills have been carefully and masterfully building a winning culture for five years. Now they are charged with making sure in these next five months that 13 seconds of inexplicable dysfunction won't reverse their course.
That will be easier said than done.