View Full Version : Chiefs Mellinger:Chiefs’ home playoff woes are mystifying

Tribal Warfare
01-10-2011, 03:49 AM
Chiefs’ home playoff woes are mystifying (http://www.kansascity.com/2011/01/09/2572793/chiefs-home-playoff-woes-are-mystifying.html)
The Kansas City Star

In the end, it looked a lot like old times. Felt like it, too. Maybe it’s been a while, but we’ve seen this show before, right?

So many good things happened with the Chiefs this year. Matt Cassel stepped into promise. Tamba Hali, Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles stepped into stardom. Romeo Crennel stepped up the defense. And so on. The Chiefs improved as much as any team in the NFL this year, but those happier thoughts are probably for another time.

Today, it’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to notice that Cassel played his worst game of the year, Charles had only nine carries, Bowe didn’t make a catch, and the Chiefs looked limp against one of the few good teams they’ve played this season in a 30-7 blowout loss to the Ravens.

Most of all, it’s OK to notice that this happened at Arrowhead Stadium. Again. How to explain that?

“We did things that get you beat,” Thomas Jones says.

“They executed, man,” Glenn Dorsey says.

“It makes you want to work that much harder,” Cassel says.

Words don’t really do it, don’t really show why the Arrowhead advantage dies in the playoffs.

A lot has been made of the empty seats, and rightfully so, but the Chiefs also won their first seven games at home. The aura was back, or at least that’s what people kept saying, except the Chiefs looked like dogs at home for the second week in a row. It might be easier to take if not for a long and undeniable history.

The Chiefs have a pretty sorry playoff history, no matter where they’re played. You certainly know their last win came after the 1993 season — it’s old enough to drive — when there were only 28 teams and one of them was in Los Angeles.

But the record at home is even more disturbing. They’re 2-5 all-time in home playoff games, by far the worst in the NFL. Only the Bengals and Lions have gone longer without home playoff wins. That includes three expansion teams and the Browns, who didn’t exist from 1996 to 1998.

On average, home teams win 69 percent of playoff games — roughly equivalent to a free throw in major-college basketball.

The Chiefs are under 29 percent — worse than Yuniesky Betancourt’s career on-base percentage.

What’s more aggravating is the Chiefs made the playoffs in large part because of their home-field advantage. They were 7-1 here and 3-5 on the road in the regular season, but again, this is the pattern.

The Chiefs won all but one of 32 games at Arrowhead during 1995, 1997, 2003 and 2010 and lost all four of their home playoff games in those seasons.

They’ve lost while scoring 31 points, and they’ve lost while giving up just 10. They’ve lost when their defense couldn’t force a punt, and they’ve lost when their field-goal kicker couldn’t stop missing. They’ve lost with Elvis Grbac and Steve Bono and Trent Green and now Matt Cassel.

They’ve lost at home against one Harbaugh as a quarterback (Jim with the Colts in ’95) and against another as a coach (John with Ravens on Sunday).

It’s the damndest thing. When the Chiefs are competitive, they are a screaming, strutting, tomahawk-chopping bundle of swagger at home, but that all stops in January. When the playoffs come around, and the rest of the country sees Arrowhead, too often it is images like Willis McGahee taunting the home crowd with a tomahawk chop after his last touchdown.

The Chiefs are bullies here in the regular season and punks in the playoffs.

“We played great at home all year, and the fans were great,” Dexter McCluster says. “I mean … well, there’s really nothing to be said. I don’t know the cause of that.”

Again, this season still shines. In the big picture, there is far more good than bad. The Chiefs are improving, worst-to-first, “their arrow pointing up.” This is a young and supremely talented group, the most important players (besides Tamba Hali) signed long-term, and there’s every chance we’re looking at the AFC West’s next power.

And, look, right now the Ravens are better than the Chiefs. They were the betting favorite with a defense full of Pro Bowlers. Even on their best day, the Chiefs may be unable to beat the Ravens. Losing to them is no shame.

But by 23 points?

Cassel threw only five interceptions during the season’s first 16 weeks and five in the last two games at home. The Chiefs won the division by playing smart and eliminating turnovers and silly penalties, and then lost their minds the last two games at home.

Brandon Carr had a shoving match with a Ravens receiver. Hali, who otherwise played a terrific game, took a personal-foul penalty. Charles and Cassel fumbled. And the entire defensive line got mouthy in the fourth quarter.

Basically, the team we saw the first seven games at home didn’t exist in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, longtime Chiefs fans are far too used to that this time of year.