KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 25-year string of ineptitude had haunted the Chiefs inside their home stadium. The failures had their own infamous nicknames in Kansas City, named after kickers, defenses and blown leads.
But at long last, the AFC Championship Game is headed to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium for the first time.
The Chiefs rolled over the visiting Colts, 31-13, in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs at Arrowhead on Saturday, squashing the anguish that stretched over a generation.
After spending much of the week insisting that the past would not even be mentioned inside the locker room, Chiefs coach Andy Reid stuck to his word after the game. Just 15 minutes after securing the Chiefs’ first appearance in the conference title game since the 1993 season, he offered a look to the future.
“Two more, right?” he said as he walked into his news conference. “Two more.”
The Chiefs will face the winner of Sunday’s Chargers-Patriots game for a spot in the Super Bowl. They split two games against the Chargers this season and lost to the Patriots, 43-40, on a last-second field goal in New England.
Kansas City had not won a home playoff game since its last trip to the AFC Championship Game in 1994. Six straight losses at Arrowhead Stadium . . . two to the Colts.
It all washed away Saturday. As a steady stream of snow dotted the field, the Chiefs departed from the formula they so often employed to earn the AFC’s top seed.
It wasn’t the MVP candidate, Patrick Mahomes, though he certainly was a factor. It was the much-maligned defense.
In the regular season, the Chiefs gave up more yardage than all but one team. But Andrew Luck threw for only 203 yards, Marlon Mack rushed for only 46 and the Colts’ offense did not find the end zone until 5:31 remained in the game.
“We know the potential that we have,” Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller said. “We know that some weeks, we don’t play all the way up to potential. We just have to peak at the right time and play high-quality football at the right time.”
The Chiefs scored on their first three possessions to take a 17-0 lead. They gained 18 first downs before the Colts gained one — even though their quarterback had never played in the snow before. “Actually, I thought it was pretty cool,” said Mahomes, who was 27-for-41 for 278 yards in his postseason debut.
He didn’t throw a single touchdown pass for only the second time this season, but he was one of four Chiefs to run for a TD. Tyreek Hill, Damien Williams and Darrel Williams were the others. Damien Williams led a punishing rushing attack with 129 of the Chiefs’ 180 yards.
“The narrative all week was their O-line against our defense, adverse weather conditions and how that favors them and they’re just gonna run the ball over us,” Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. “A lot of people chose the Colts to win that game outright. I thought we had a pretty good offense ourselves this year. There wasn’t much talk about how we would do and the things we were capable of.”
If the ghosts of playoff past were to arrive at Arrowhead, they came in the form of a blocked punt for an Indianapolis TD in the second quarter. Or a lost fumble by Sammy Watkins in the fourth.
But the Chiefs responded to both. They drove 75 yards for a touchdown after the blocked punt. Dee Ford sacked and stripped Luck after the Watkins fumble.
Kansas City even got a bounce. Adam Vinatieri clanked a 23-yard field goal off the upright on the last play of the first half to preserve the Chiefs’ 24-7 lead heading into halftime. It was the shortest miss of Vinatieri’s career. He also missed an extra point later.
“People talk about the history, but you rewrite history, man,” Chiefs lineman Cam Erving said. “You can’t focus on the past. You have to continue moving forward. And we got the right guys to continue doing it.”