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|Chiefs linebacker Reggie Ragland was in swaddling blankets the previous time Kansas City won a home playoff game.
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill was nestled comfortably in the womb.
It was January 1994 [url=http://www.officialflames.com/authentic-adidas-jaromir-jagr-jersey]http://www.officialflames.com/authentic-adidas-jaromir-jagr-jersey[/url] , Joe Montana was the quarterback and the Chiefs beat the Steelers on an overtime field goal by Nick Lowery to advance.
And it’s hard to believe anybody packed inside Arrowhead Stadium that day imagined a quarter century would pass without another home playoff win.
”It would be nice to break that,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said, ”but you can’t add any extra motivation once you get to this stage. This is all the work we’ve been putting in as this team from day-one – this team. When we were putting in our goals and talking about that.
”It’s tough to add any more motivation with historic streaks or things like that.”
Besides, the Titans (9-7) are trying to end their own maddening stretch of playoff futility.
Tennessee rumbles into Kansas City for the wild-card round Saturday in its first postseason trip since 2008, when the Titans were the AFC’s top seed.
If they can waltz out with a win, as they did in 2016, it would be their first playoff victory since January 2004.
”It’s playoff time,” Titans safety Kevin Byard said. ”I dream about … matchups, about going up against guys like (Travis) Kelce and going up against Andy Reid, a Hall of Fame-level coach. He’s a great coach. And going into Arrowhead Stadium, one of the louder stadiums, I don’t think there’s better you can ask for in the first week of the playoffs.”
Indeed, there are story lines galore in a game that could be overshadowed by higher-profile matchups, or perhaps overlooked because of the Chiefs’ midseason swoon and the Titans’ late-season slump.
Smith is trying to validate the best season of his career in what could be his final game for the Chiefs (10-6). Hill is hoping to show off his world-class speed on a national stage.
And running back Kareem Hunt, who won the NFL rushing title this season, will have a chance to etch his name alongside the likes of Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell as one of the league’s best.
”If you lose [url=http://www.officialhurricanes.com/authentic-adidas-andrei-svechnikov-jersey]http://www.officialhurricanes.com/authentic-adidas-andrei-svechnikov-jersey[/url] , you go home,” Hunt said simply. ”Everybody is giving their all not to go home.”
On the flip side, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will try to rewrite the story of an up-and-down season with his playoff debut. Running back Derrick Henry and his supporting cast will help. And embattled coach Mike Mularkey will try to prove he was the right man for the job all along.
”The intensity and everything goes up when you get to this point,” Mularkey said.
As the Titans prepare to visit the Chiefs, here are a few more story lines to watch:
DEEP THREAT: The Chiefs lost kick returner Akeem Hunt to an injury last weekend against Denver, and special teams coach Dave Toub said Hill could return against the Titans. The speedster was taken off that particular duty this season to keep him fresher for the offense.
Toub was asked what the Chiefs lost in that sacrifice. ”Maybe two touchdowns,” he said flatly.
SPEAKING OF SPECIAL TEAMS: The Titans beat the Chiefs 19-17 in December 2016 on a game-ending field goal by Ryan Succop, who had spent most of his career with Kansas City. Succop came up short on his first attempt at the 53-yarder, but Reid had called timeout just before to give him another shot.
Succop made the mulligan for a victory in the coldest game in franchise history.
MARIOTA’S MOMENT: The Titans’ young quarterback had struggled down the stretch, when they lost three straight to fall off the playoff pace.
But while his numbers against Jacksonville last week to help clinch a postseason berth were modest, several teammates said Mariota got his swagger back.
”It was just me being me,” he said. ”Again, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. This is the time in the season when you’ve just got to lay it all on the line.”
WATCH FOR FLAGS: The Chiefs were among the most penalized teams in the NFL this season, getting flagged 118 teams. The Titans were the second-best in the league, drawing just 85 penalties – second-fewest in franchise history for a 16-game season. In a playoff game with razor-thin margins, penalties could be the difference between winning and losing.
ARROWHEAD MYSTIQUE: The weather should be in the 40s for kickoff Saturday [url=http://www.officialbluejackets.com/authentic-adidas-david-savard-jersey]http://www.officialbluejackets.com/authentic-adidas-david-savard-jersey[/url] , or about 40 degrees warmer than when these teams met last season.
That should make it more comfortable for players, but also fans that will be plenty lubricated from their tailgates by the late afternoon kickoff.
”There’s nothing like Arrowhead Stadium when that place is packed,” Reid said, ”and it’s a little cold and the ground is shaking a little bit. It doesn’t get any better.”
Jay Ajayi has fit in nicely with a rotation of running backs on the Philadelphia Eagles since his arrival from Miami at the trade deadline.
The playoffs could turn him into a workhorse.
Ajayi was the only regular on offense who sat out the final game because the Eagles (13-3) had already secured the NFC’s No. 1 seed. That was an indication of his value and coach Doug Pederson’s plans to use him more in the postseason. Plus, Ajayi has a quirky knee.
”I think that’s a possibility with what he’s shown us down the stretch here and giving him rest last week, and we’ll see where he is this week health-wise,” Pederson said. ”I think he’s one of the guys that we can rely on. Again, I don’t want to get away from the things that got us to this point, too. That’s the other thing is you don’t want to just abandon ship on everybody else. I do think there could be a little more role for him down the stretch.”
Ajayi had 408 yards rushing , one touchdown and an average of 5.8 yards per carry in seven games for Philadelphia. He had 465 yards rushing and averaged 3.4 yards per carry with no touchdowns in Miami. Last year, Ajayi went to the Pro Bowl after running for 1,272 yards, including three 200-yard games.
LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with 766 yards rushing. He had four rushing TDs and averaged 4.4 yards. Undrafted rookie Corey Clement chipped in with 321 yards, four TDs and an average of 4.3 yards.
Blount, a two-time Super Bowl champion with New England, has accepted his diminished role and put the team first since Ajayi’s arrival.
”LeGarrette has embraced his role [url=http://www.officialredwings.com/authentic-adidas-dylan-larkin-jersey]http://www.officialredwings.com/authentic-adidas-dylan-larkin-jersey[/url] ,” Pederson said. ”He’s been a pleasant surprise, particularly with the younger guys. He understands his role. He’s going to be a big part of the success, and has been a big part of the successes this year already. He has been to the pinnacle. He’s been there and understands it, what it takes. Those are the things I’m going to lean on him with our team and with the guys that haven’t been there, how to practice, how to prepare. So he’s really done a nice job in his role.”
The Eagles finished the season with the NFL’s third-ranked running offense. But they struggled down the stretch, especially after Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14. They averaged 147.5 yards rushing in the first 11 games and only 98.6 in the last five.
Opponents focused more on stopping Philadelphia’s run when Nick Foles replaced Wentz, and the team averaged just 61.3 rushing yards in the last three games. Foles and the starters only played one quarter in the 6-0 loss to Dallas last Sunday, and Ajayi watched from the sideline.
”We have to get better in the run game,” Pederson said. ”That helps any quarterback, obviously, so we have to get better there. We have to make sure we’re doing our due diligence as a staff to put our guys in successful positions.”
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