KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Regardless of its reputation as one of the loudest and toughest places to visit in the NFL, the home field of the Kansas City Chiefs has not been much of an advantage for the home team in recent playoff history. Entering Sunday night’s AFC divisional-round matchup, the Chiefs had lost their past five playoff games at Arrowhead Stadium, not having won here since an overtime thriller against the Steelers in January 1994. Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Marcus Allen started in the backfield for the Chiefs, who reached the AFC Championship game that postseason. Current Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill was about seven weeks from being born.
Kansas City’s opponent this time: Again, the Steelers, who are 1-2 at Arrowhead since 2009 under coach Mike Tomlin. It was reported that Tomlin’s first order of business during meetings with players at practice this week was to remind them of the rowdy and boisterous crowd. And if it had slipped his mind, offensive coordinator Todd Haley would have reminded the players. He was the Chiefs’ head coach from 2009-2011.
Fans at Arrowhead repeatedly have backed up the boast that their stadium is the loudest, notably in 2014 when they reclaimed a Guinness world record at 142.2 decibels during a Monday night game against the Patriots. The Chiefs won that game in a blowout, and they’ve frequently had a good showing at home, at least during the regular season, where they have won 18 of 23. They were 6-2 at home this season.
The opening kickoff was moved from 1:05 p.m. Eastern time to 8:20 out of concern for an ice storm blanketing the midwest, and while ice did cover many of the seats at Arrowhead in the hours before the game and a chilly mist was falling as players warmed up, workers had the field covered and protected for the worst of the weather. Some with the Chiefs worried that the weather would hold down attendance and possibly subdue the crowd’s potential impact.
As the Kansas City Star noted, after remarkably going a combined 31-1 at home to earn playoff openers at Arrowhead in 1995, 1997, 2003 and 2010, the Chiefs lost every time. Only the Bengals and Lions have gone longer than the Chiefs without winning a playoff game at home.
Quarterback Alex Smith was at the helm for Kansas City’s playoff victory at Houston a year ago, which broke an eight-game postseason losing streak for the franchise. It’s not on the Chiefs of today to reverse decades of disappointment. But they would like to take advantage of the home cooking for the first time in a long time. The advantages of playing at Arrowhead, Smith said, are ones that everyone knows.
“The big difference right off the bat is that you don’t have to travel, and you have a lot of routines here,” Smith said. “And then there’s the benefit of Arrowhead. For us, offensively, being able to use cadences to our advantages, [and] it goes the other way defensively when we can take advantage of the noise. Being able to lean on the crowd at times for energy is big.”
Making Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger feel not at home probably will be key for the Chiefs. His touchdown-to-interception ratio during the regular season was 9-8 on the road, compared to 20-5 at Heinz Field.