Chiefs vs. Colts: An Oral History of Playoff Disappointment

By Nick Moreno

The first year I loved the Chiefs was 2003. I was 10 years old and had just played Madden for the first time.

I had watched football before, but the feeling was different. It finally clicked for me. I was all in.

The Chiefs started the year 9-0 and finished the year 13-3. That season, I attended my first ever Chiefs game with my dad. A 41-20 rout against the Browns.

10-year-old Nick absolutely loved the Chiefs.

The 2003 Chiefs had a lot to love: Dante Hall became the X-Factor He cemented the new nickname with a game winning punt return against Denver that I will never forget (mostly because it triggers two great memories: first, a video of the punt return was the focal point of my (hopefully deleted) Myspace page a few years later; and second, the play led my drunk cousin to open the front door of my aunt’s house and yell at the neighborhood kids to “go inside and show some god damn respect for the Chiefs.”), Priest Holmes broke the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season, and the Chiefs were the top rated team according to DVOA (a stat that did not yet exist).

Anyways, the Chiefs drew Peyton Manning and the Colts in the divisional round.

There were no punts. The offenses were exhilarating, but a Priest Holmes fumble and Morten Anderson missed field goal were enough to lose the game (not to mention a historically bad defensive showing, but the game was against Peyton freaking Manning!)

The game was my first heartbreaking experience as a Chiefs fan. It would not be the last.

Image result for dante hall 2003

Photo by Arrowhead Addict

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The Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West for the third straight year. The first time in franchise history. The Chiefs are also the number one seed in the AFC Playoffs for the first time since 1997. So, why are Chiefs fans freaking out?

They are facing a familiar opponent.

The Colts have owned the Chiefs in the playoffs. The Chiefs are 0-4 against them in playoff history.

Not to mention past two Chiefs division championships led to playoff disappointment.

Last year it happened on wild card weekend. After going up 21-3 in the first half, the Titans rallied back to win the game 22-21.

The year prior, Kansas City lost to Pittsburgh 18-16 in the divisional round. The Steelers failed to score a touchdown, but still won the game.

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By 2006 I was a diehard Chiefs fan.

We had just hired Herm Edwards to replace Dick Vermeil, and Larry Johnson was starting for the injured Priest Holmes (who would not play in the 2006 season).

I was pissed my soccer game was at the same time as the Chiefs season opener. As soon as the soccer game was over I ran to the car and turned on the radio. We were losing 17-3 when Trent Green took one of the worst hits of his career. I didn’t see it live, but the way Mitch Holthus described the hit was enough for 13-year-old me to understand Green got absolutely rocked. He was concussed and unable to play for the next eight weeks.

Damon Huard took over and went 5-3 in the time Green missed. Green returned and finished the season by winning four of the last seven games.

Huard only played one more series the rest of the season. It was a touchdown drive after Green went down with an ankle injury in what was assumed to be the last game of the year.

The right teams won (miraculously), and the 9-7 Chiefs claimed the last Wildcard spot. It meant a trip to Indianapolis.

I was young, but I remember the anti-Green sentiment. He hadn’t looked great all season. People wanted Huard to start.

The opening kickoff was indicative of the rest of the game. Dante Hall went to field the kick, but he let it bounce at the five-yard line on its way out of bounds. The thing about a football is that it can bounce anywhere (it is oblong by the way). It turned and went into the end zone. The ball was placed on the 20 instead of the 40.

The Chiefs’ offense finished the first half with 16 total yards, failing to convert a single first down. Green finished his last game as a Chief going 14-24 with 107 total yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The game was one of the most dominant losses I have ever witnessed. Not for a moment of that game did the Chiefs have a chance.

The competition from Huard (on top of Green’s poor play) drove Green out of Kansas City.

The dark days of Kansas City football began.

Image result for trent green concussion

Photo by Arrowhead Pride

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The Chiefs look like a completely different team than in past seasons. Mostly due to the arrival of Patrick Mahomes, he is the first young quarterback many Chiefs fans remember (mostly because of the refusal to acknowledge Brodie Croyle), and the first one the Chiefs actually drafted. No offense to the people on this list, but Alex Smith was cast aside for Colin Kaepernick, Matt Cassel because (duh) Tom Brady, Trent Green for Kurt Warner, and Elvis Grbac for an ancient Steve Young.

In my lifetime, the Chiefs never had the quarterback of the future. And despite all the shit the revolving door at quarterback brought, they now have him.

They also have a great coach. His shortcomings have cost them in big games, but there are very few coaches who are better and have won at such a consistent rate.

The future is as bright as can be for the Chiefs, but this game is a must win. Not just for the obvious reason of the season being on the line.

It is a must win for trust in the team, the young quarterback, and (most importantly) Andy Reid.

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The most recent (and probably most heartbreaking) loss to the Colts happened in 2013.

It was Alex Smith and Andy Reid’s first season. The Chiefs again started 9-0, but then limped into the playoffs at 11-5. We were the first wildcard team.

We made the playoff only once since 2006. We were drubbed by the Ravens (the only playoff game I have ever attended) in 2011.

I was living in Lawrence in a small apartment with my cousin Peter. For those who don’t know, Lawrence has a lot of Chiefs fans, but also a lot of Chiefs haters. Everyone who wasn’t from Kansas City (a large amount of the students) took every chance to tell us how much we suck. The Chicagoans were the worst.

So, we decided to watch the game at home. Just the two of us.

The game started and we were up! The Chiefs had yet to win a playoff game in either of our lives, and we were ready to witness the first even if we weren’t in Kansas City.

Jamaal Charles went down. Oh well, it is early and we still have Knile Davis.

The second half began, and Knile Davis put the Chiefs up by 28. The game is over.

I was already getting ready to go to my then girlfriend’s apartment. Do you think we can win next week without Charles?

The Colts scored again. It doesn’t matter. We are up 21.

I left.

I turned on my girlfriend’s TV. The score was 41-24 in the third quarter. It is still 100% over.

We were in the kitchen cooking when I walk over to check the score. 41-31. I didn’t leave the living room again until the game ended.

Early fourth quarter, Knile Davis leaves the game with an injury. Cyrus Gray is taking snaps (fucking Cyrus Gray). Even a win would just prepare us for a slaughter the following weekend.

Luck recovers a fumble. Touchdown Colts. 41-38. It was over. Those plays don’t happen against teams that win games.

By the time T.Y. Hilton grabbed a 64- yard-game-winning touchdown, I was ready for the worst.

Our next drive sputters and the season is over.

I went home, and there was Peter, maybe an hour after the loss, sitting in front of the TV behind a turned over coffee table. (The contents of the table were neatly placed on the floor, so it is safe to say the act was premeditated…but he was still pissed.)

Nothing prepared Chiefs fans for the loss. It was historic. It was terrible. And it foreshadowed the pain of playoff blunders to come. Successful seasons followed by painful losses.

Image result for andrew luck touchdown vs chiefs fumble

Photo by New York Post

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It may sound dumb, but Andy Reid has to prove he can win in the postseason.

He is a Hall of Fame coach, but he has only won one conference championship in his almost 20 years as a head coach; one playoff game this decade; and not a single home playoff game for the Chiefs.

Clock management is the one thing that has plagued Andy Reid his entire career.

We saw it again last month when the Chargers erased a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter on national television.

He is not on a hot seat, but the game is a must win.

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I don’t remember the Chiefs’ first playoff loss against the Colts, all of which occurred in my lifetime. I was two years old.

Lin Elliot went 0-3 on field goal attempts in a 7-10 loss against the Colts. He missed from 35, 39, and (finally) 42 yard in the final minute of the game.

In Kansas City, the game would forever be known as the Lin Elliot game. Without research I couldn’t name another player on the field. Turns out Jim Harbaugh was playing quarterback for the Ravens and some man named Steve Bono started the game for Kansas City only to be benched for Rich Gannon in the second half. Gannon almost won the game for the Chiefs putting the ball in the hand of receiver Lake Dawson in the end zone on the same drive Elliot missed the game-tying kick.

None of that matters. It was the Lin Elliot Game.

The fans needed a scapegoat. Elliot was the easy choice. The anger of Chiefs fans is on best display through the lens of my father, or better yet his coworker.

At the time, my dad worked at a plant for a packaging manufacturer.  A co-worker of his shared the besmirched kickers name. He was also named Lin Elliot.

“He was a religious man, a hard worker, a great guy, and just a nice person,” my father recalled.

In 1996, the best way to find someone’s number was the phonebook.  Maintenance man Lin Elliot received multiple calls from Chiefs Kingdom that night. He was cursed out, and his young daughter answered the first few calls.

“Hey little bitch get your dad on the phone,” said one angry Chiefs fans.

(Hey, maybe the last 23 years are just karmic payback for the sins of Chiefs fans that night.)

Photo by FoxSports

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Terrible home playoff losses have plagued the franchise. Chiefs fans will tell you.

The matchup Andrew Luck’s offense brings is difficult for the Chiefs. The Colts feature probably the best offensive line in football.

The Chiefs rank bottom five in rushing yards allowed. After a slow start, the Colts turned in on behind the emergence of Marlon Mack. They rushed for 200 yards last week, manhandling the Houston defensive line who were top-5 team when it comes to stopping the run.

Andrew Luck was given all day to throw the ball. Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt could not disrupt the quarterback.

The forecast for tomorrow’s game is cold. There will be snow on the ground from tonight’s winter storm. Luck is used to the controlled climate of his dome in Indianapolis and hasn’t played a game in these elements since before his injury that forced him to miss all of last season. But, snow usually makes for an easier time rushing the ball.

The Chiefs will have to get into the backfield to make plays. They are not stout against the run, but Dee Ford and Justin Houston both have a knack for making big plays.

On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs will look to exploit the space they are given against the deep cover 2 defense the Colts love to play. To make it simple, the Colts secondary keeps the ball in front of them.

The Colts defense does not lack talent or depth, but they do lack superstar playmakers…especially with pass rushers. Matt Lane of Arrowhead Pride pointed out that most of their pressure comes off of scheme.

“The Colts’ one-on-one pass-rush ability is very limited, but it’s a group that will prey on poor offensive linemen switches and communication,” wrote Lane.

The Colts also lack in an area where Kansas City excel, they have a hard time against opposing tight ends. They have allowed the most receiving yards to tight ends in the NFL this season. Travis Kelce just broke the record for the most receiving yards by a tight end in an NFL season.

There are a lot of matchups worth watching tomorrow afternoon. Maybe the weather will throw everything we know out the window.

Maybe the Arrowhead faithful will fall apart at the slightest sign of negativity. Who knows?

What I do know is the Chiefs aren’t just up against the Indianapolis Colts and a shot at the AFC title game.

The Chiefs are playing against a tortured playoff history; a franchise that has tormented them in the post season; legacy questions for a great coach; faith in a young quarterback; and the hopes of a tortured fan base.

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