Any player will tell you that an ugly win looks just as good in the standings as a pretty win does. Sunday, the Chiefs earned a spot in the AFC playoffs, albeit in rather ugly fashion. You see, the Chiefs entered week 17 of the regular season with an 8-7 record and needed to win at home against Jacksonville plus receive help from three other teams. Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Denver all needed to lose in order for Kansas City to grab the sixth and final spot in the tournament. The fact that all three of those teams were playing at home and only Tennessee was facing a playoff team made the situation even less probable for the Chiefs. What were the chances all the stars would line up for a team that hasn’t seen the Super Bowl since 1970? No chance, right?
WRONG! Cincinnati dropped the ball in overtime against the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers, Tennessee failed to show up in the fourth quarter against New England, and Denver couldn’t score on three overtime possessions versus the Forty Niners. Just like that, the Chiefs lucked their way into the playoffs. Monday, Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards didn’t want to hear any of the lucky talk.
“I’m defensive,” said an emotional Edwards. “That’s exactly right. Because I don’t want anybody to think all of the sudden we lucked our way into this deal. We didn’t luck our way into it. We won our way into it just like those other teams had to, and they didn’t do it.”
Good thing for Kansas City, they had the chance to play Jacksonville at Arrowhead Stadium. They won’t have that luxury come playoff time. Grabbing the last entry into the playoffs guarantees you a road game throughout. That means, if the Chiefs are to make a run at the Super Bowl, they’ll have to win every game outside the state of Missouri.
The quest begins Saturday with a matchup against the league’s worst run defense in Indianapolis. The Colts defensive front-seven (linemen and linebackers) is the lightest in the NFL and their porous defense gave up 173 rushing yards per game. That works right into the Chiefs hands because they have one of the league’s best running backs in Larry Johnson. This season, Johnson carried the ball a total of 416 times which set an NFL record for most carries in a single season. He finished second in the league with 1,1789 yards on the ground and 17 touchdowns.
“I’m the person they depend on to carry the ball majority of the time,” said Johnson. And that’s what has to be done regardless if it’s 50 times or 100 times. And when you get down deep in the playoff race, you can’t sit here and say you’re tired. You got three or four months of relaxation after the Super Bowl to say you’re tired, but this [isn’t] the time to do it.”
Having Johnson should help the Chiefs keep Peyton Manning and the explosive Colts offense off the field as much as possible. Surely to no one’s surprise Manning finished atop the league in quarterback rating (101.0), yards passing (4,397), and touchdowns (31). Along with Manning, the Colts boast 1,000-yard rusher Joseph Addai (1,081), wide receiver Marvin Harrison who finished second in the NFL with 95 receptions, and Reggie Wayne (86).
Experience is also on the side of the Colts. Indy has been in the playoffs the last four years and six of the last seven. Kansas City on the other hand hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003 and more than half of the team’s current starters weren’t with the team then. The Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since 1994. There are a few bright spots in the Chiefs locker room when it comes to playoff experience. Edwards has been to the playoffs four of the last six years, three times in New York. In 2002, his Jets team demolished the Colts 41-0. But Edwards won’t be able to help the team on the field. The only significant player on Kansas City’s roster that can help with a Super Bowl recipe is cornerback Ty Law who has three Super Bowl rings from his playing days with the Patriots.
So, congrats to the Chiefs for making the playoffs, but all the stars must line up for them to make a return trip to the Super Bowl. A return from 1970. Good luck.