Chiefs look­ing for­ward to first AFC ti­tle game since ’94

Dayton Daily News - - NFL - By Dave Skretta

KANSAS CITY ,MO.— No­body in the Kansas City Chiefs’ locker room is more keenly aware of the fran­chise’s heart­break­ing play­off his­tory than Xavier Wil­liams, who grew up a short drive away from Ar­row­head Sta­dium.

He was just a tod­dler when his home­town team lost in the AFC ti­tle game in Jan­uary 1994, the last time they were on the cusp of play­ing in a Su­per Bowl. He en­dured the child­hood dis­ap­point­ments, and the play­off losses while he was star­ring in high school and at North­ern Iowa.

So when the Chiefs fi­nally punched their ticket back to the AFC cham­pi­onship game with a 31-13 win over the In­di­anapo­lis Colts on Satur­day, there was no­body bet­ter to put it into per­spec­tive.

“I think if you’re not from here, you don’t know,” Wil­liams said. “Peo­ple have been wait­ing for a long, long time. You could just feel how elec­tri­fy­ing it is around the city, from the start of the sea­son un­til now, tonight. A bliz­zard go­ing on and the crowd sold out. It’s some­thing.”

The Chiefs cer­tainly gave them a rea­son to brave the weather.

Patrick Ma­homes threw for 278 yards while run­ning for a touch­down. Damien Wil­liams ran for 129 yards and a score against a Colts de­fense that had not al­lowed a 100-yard rusher all sea­son. Tyreek Hill also had a touch­down run, while Travis Kelce topped 100 yards re­ceiv­ing.

The Chiefs’ de­fense, which was so ma­ligned all sea­son, shut down An­drew Luck and the In­di­anapo­lis of­fense in help­ing Kansas City to its first play­off win over the Colts in five tries.

“Ev­ery­body grows up talk­ing about play­ing for the home­town team,” Wil­liams said. “I mean, it’s a great op­por­tu­nity we’ve got. And now we’ve got an even big­ger op­por­tu­nity, a chance to bring a Su­per Bowl to your home­town. That’s what dreams are made of.”

Stand­ing in the way: The New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, who ral­lied in the fi­nal sec­onds to beat the Chiefs in a 43-40 barn­burner at Gil­lette Sta­dium in Week 6.

“We don’t care who we’re go­ing against. We can be go­ing against brick walls and will find a way to beat them,” Chiefs de­fen­sive tackle Chris Jones said. “We’re peak­ing at the right mo­ment.”

The Colts thought they were, too.

They started 1-5 be­fore rip­ping off nine wins in 10 games to reach the play­offs. Then they joined the 2015 Chiefs as the only teams in NFL his­tory to start so abysmally and win a post­sea­son game, romp­ing through the Hous­ton Tex­ans a week ago to earn a shot at the AFC’s top seed.

They faced a 17-0 hole be­fore they re­al­ized what had hap­pened, and it was 24-7 at half­time with their only points com­ing on a blocked punt that was re­cov­ered in the end zone. In fact, the Colts didn’t score on of­fense un­til Luck hit T.Y. Hilton with 5:31 left in the game.

By that point, the Chiefs were cruis­ing to­ward the next round of the play­offs.

As the Chiefs move on and the Colts hit the off­sea­son, here are five take­away items from Satur­day:

Vi­natieri’s misses

Colts kicker Adam Vi­natieri missed a 23-yard field goal just be­fore half­time that could have made it a 24-10 game. He also missed an ex­tra point in the fourth quar­ter. “The first one I just didn’t get good foot­ing. It’s silly,” he said. “You need ev­ery point you can in a play­off game and we needed that one for sure. That’s a mo­men­tum swing.”

Sack at­tack

Justin Hous­ton had two sacks and Dee Ford had a strip-sack, some­thing he had done seven times this sea­son. The Chiefs also bat­ted sev­eral of Luck’s passes at the line of scrim­mage in what was eas­ily their best de­fen­sive per­for­mance all sea­son.

Hob­bled Hilton

The sil­ver lin­ing of the loss for Hilton is that he can fi­nally rest his an­kle, which has been both­er­ing him for some time. “It needs rest,” he said. “I got a low and a high an­kle sprain on one an­kle, so I’m deal­ing with two in­juries in one, which is pretty rough. But I dealt with it. Gave the team ev­ery­thing I had. It was a great sea­son.”

In­jury watch

The Chiefs played without safety Eric Berry (heel) and run­ning back Spencer Ware (ham­string), and it’s un­clear whether ei­ther will be avail­able next week. Wide re­ceiver Sammy Watkins played for the first time since hurt­ing his foot in Novem­ber and made it through the game.

Run­ning wild

Ka­reem Hunt was sup­posed to lead the Chiefs into the play­offs, but he was thrown off the team mid­way through the sea­son. Ware has been hob­bled by shoul­der and ham­string in­juries. But Kansas City hasn’t missed a beat be­cause of Wil­liams, a jour­ney­man who has played so well in climb­ing from the No. 3 run­ning back to the starter that he’s al­ready earned a con­tract ex­ten­sion. “He runs his tail off for ev­ery­body on this team,” Kelce said. “Sure enough, he showed to­day he can fin­ish a game for us.”

PETER AIKEN / GETTY IM­AGES

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce had seven re­cep­tions for 108 yards in Satur­day’s AFC di­vi­sional play­off game in Kansas City. The Chiefs will host the Pa­tri­ots in next Sun­day’s AFC cham­pi­onship game.

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