Chiefs aim to re­write play­off his­tory

Kingston Whig-Standard - - SPORTS - DAVE SKRETTA

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Given the post-sea­son his­tory in­volv­ing In­di­anapo­lis and Kansas City over the years, An­drew Luck and the Colts have ev­ery rea­son to feel con­fi­dent head­ing to Ar­row­head Sta­dium on Sat­ur­day.

The Chiefs have ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve they’re due.

Four times the teams have met in the play­offs, twice in the wild-card round and twice with a spot in the AFC ti­tle game on the line. Each time the Colts emerged vic­to­ri­ous. All but one were down-to-the-wire nail-biters, one a record-set­ting shootout and an­other a de­fen­sive slugfest, and each left Colts fans feel­ing eu­phoric and Chiefs fans feel­ing cursed.

Asked whether he un­der­stood the mag­ni­tude of the next in­stall­ment in the one-sided se­ries, Chiefs cor­ner­back Ken­dall Fuller replied quite sim­ply: “Oh yeah.”

“Es­pe­cially what they’ve been go­ing through over the years and things like that,” he said. “We def­i­nitely see how fans feel, what they’re ex­pect­ing and stuff like that.”

There was the 1996 wild-card matchup in which Chiefs kicker Lin El­liott missed three field goals and the Colts won 10-7. The di­vi­sional show­down in 2003, when the Colts won 38-31 in a game fea­tur­ing no punts. The 23-8 white­wash­ing three years later and, most re­cently, the 45-44 shootout in which Luck led the Colts from a 38-10 sec­ond-half hole to beat Andy Reid’s first Chiefs team in 2013.

There are still more than a dozen play­ers around who were in­volved in that game five years ago, yet each ac­knowl­edged this week that his­tory has no bear­ing on what will tran­spire Sat­ur­day .

“Ob­vi­ously they are a great team,” said Colts kicker Adam Vi­natieri, who has played in the past two play­off games against Kansas City. “They’ve won a lot of games. They’ve got a very ex­plo­sive of­fence. They’ve got prob­a­bly the best re­turner in the Na­tional Foot­ball League with (Tyreek) Hill.

“We are go­ing to have to play our best game,” Vi­natieri said, “to try to keep up with them.”

The Chiefs hap­pen to be­lieve the same thing.

Yes, they earned the No. 1 seed with their third con­sec­u­tive AFC West ti­tle, and have ar­guably the game’s best young quar­ter­back in Pa­trick Ma­homes. Hill joins Travis Kelce, a healthy Sammy Watkins and run­ning backs Spencer Ware and Damien Wil­liams in giv­ing him plenty of weapons, while a de­fence that’s been sta­tis­ti­cally poor also has more sacks than any other team.

Yet the Colts, the sixth and last seed in the play­offs, may be the hottest team play­ing . They re­bounded from a 1-5 start to win nine of their last 10 games to reach the post-sea­son, then dom­i­nated the Hous­ton Tex­ans last week with a blud­geon­ing ground game and stingy de­fence .

“The way this locker room has pre­pared,” Luck said, “it’s all about just get­ting bet­ter, get­ting bet­ter . ... It takes no he­roes. You don’t need a hero, whether it’s a play­off game or a reg­u­lar-sea­son game. It’s just ev­ery­body do­ing their jobs that get things done.”

Of course, hav­ing a lit­tle play­off karma never hurts. The Colts cer­tainly have that when it comes to Kansas City, while the Chiefs be­lieve they long ago hit their quota of mis­for­tune.

“All of us feel like we are here now and focused on the present day,” Ma­homes said, “and we feel like we have a dif­fer­ent team, and that we can go out there and win a big foot­ball game.”

SPEAK­ING OF MA­HOMES

Colts coach Frank Re­ich played 13 sea­sons in the NFL, and has spent most of the past decade work­ing with quar­ter­backs. And he had high praise for Ma­homes, who shattered just about ev­ery Chiefs pass­ing record this sea­son.

“I’ve heard peo­ple use the term ‘gen­er­a­tional arm ta­lent.’ I think that’s re­ally true,” he said. “As a for­mer quar­ter­back, I don’t say that about too many peo­ple. I don’t throw that term out real eas­ily. I think he’s a le­git gen­er­a­tional arm ta­lent.”

MACK TRUCK

Colts run­ning back Mar­lon Mack ran for a fran­chise play­off record 148 yards in their 21-7 win over the Tex­ans . Now, he gets to face a Chiefs rush de­fence that was last in the NFL in just about ev­ery sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gory. “I think that’s an in­di­ca­tion of how our en­tire of­fence played,” Luck said. “It’s a com­bi­na­tion of Mar­lon and the of­fen­sive line.”

FA­MIL­IAR FACES

Much of the credit for the Colts’ turn­around be­longs to gen­eral man­ager Chris Bal­lard, who worked in Kansas City’s front of­fice be­fore tak­ing over in In­di­anapo­lis. It was Bal­lard that or­ches­trated two solid drafts and re­built the Colts de­fence. “I’m not sur­prised,” Reid said. “He’s got the en­ergy to go get it. The en­ergy and the eye to see it and go get it. That’s im­por­tant.”

HEALTH CHECK

Colts wide re­ceiver Ryan Grant (toe) has been ruled out, while de­fen­sive line­man Tyquan Lewis is doubt­ful with a knee in­jury. The big ques­tion for the Chiefs is strong safety Eric Berry, who did not prac­tice all week with a re­cur­rence of the heel in­jury that side­lined him much of the sea­son. He was listed as ques­tion­able on the fi­nal in­jury re­port.

Pa­trick Ma­homes

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