Chiefs’ players draw on past experiences to not allow Saturday get too big

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There is no doubt the battle-tested New England Patriots have more recent playoff experience than the Chiefs, a team advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 20-plus years.

Jan. 9, 2016; Houston; General view of the Kansas City Chiefs offensive huddle during the second half against the Texans at NRG Stadium. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Jan. 9, 2016; Houston; General view of the Kansas City Chiefs offensive huddle during the second half against the Texans at NRG Stadium. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions, after all, and have made the postseason in seven straight seasons, including two Super Bowls in that span.

Some could argue the postseason experience offers an edge when the Patriots host the Chiefs in the Divisional Round at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.

But numerous Chiefs players are accustomed to playing in the spotlight of a high-profile game based on playing careers before the NFL, and Saturday’s matchup shouldn’t get too big on them.

“I remember I was saying to myself when we were running to the field in the dome, ‘Man, this reminds me of the SEC Championship,’” defensive end Jaye Howard said of last weekend’s win over the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. “And I was fortunate enough to play in that twice. I was like, this is like playing in college again, playing on Saturdays.

“I think a lot of guys are approaching it like that. I was talking to Eric Berry the other day, he was like, ‘We’re used to playing on Saturdays from college.’ So, everyone is looking at it like that.”

Howard and Berry aren’t alone with big-game college experience, of course.

A glance at the Chiefs’ roster reflects numerous players from power college football conferences, including outside linebacker Dee Ford, who played in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game as a member of the Auburn Tigers.

Cornerback Jamell Fleming, who played at Oklahoma, believes the college experience applies to the NFL postseason.

“You’re not as nervous, you know what to expect coming into the game,” Fleming said. “Really, it just keeps you calm.”

Howard concedes there is a different atmosphere and energy at the Chiefs training facility, but reinforced Fleming’s point of view.

“When you play at Arrowhead and college is always live, we’re used to those games,” Howard said. “It’s not different.”

Meanwhile, former Eagles backup quarterback Koy Detmer said in a telephone interview he believes there is something to gain from postseason experience.

But Detmer doesn’t believe it is the deciding factor on the football field.

Detmer, who played for Chiefs coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia (1999-2006), said having inexperience in the postseason isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“In some ways, you could have that deal about you when you’re young and inexperienced, you don’t know what might hurt you,” Detmer said. “You kind of play freely and go about the game the same way having fun.

“Sometimes that plays into being an advantage. You don’t know what the pitfalls are, you’re just going. You’re not playing timid and all those kinds of things. You’re just, hey, it’s another game and you just go out there, turn it loose and go get it.”

Detmer said when the subject of playoff experience enters a conversation, it more often than not applies to recognizing looks on offense, defense and special teams.

“The playoff experience to me, really a lot of that comes in to really situations in the game,” he said. “The experience of knowing those things and how important every aspect of the game is, some of that is really valuable.”

Former Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter agreed during a telephone interview, before adding the Chiefs should be fine against the Patriots because of the core veterans in Kansas City’s locker room.

“The key is Kansas City has a lot of players that are veteran guys, like Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Eric Berry,” Buckhalter said. “Those guys are veteran guys, high-profile players, so they are able to corral the team together and lead their team by example of how they play on the field because the moment is not too big for those guys.”

Berry would later make Buckhalter’s point about not getting caught up in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, with or without postseason experience.

“We could be playing anybody,” Berry said. “So, I’m just happy to be here, happy to be here with my teammates. And we’re going to make the most out of this situation and just prepare like we’ve been preparing and move forward like that.”

TALE OF THE TAPE: 2015 REGULAR SEASON

OFFENSE

• The Chiefs ranked sixth in rushing (127.8 yards per game) and 30th in passing (203.4 yards per game).
• The Patriots ranked 30th in rushing (87.8 yards per game) and fifth in passing (286.7 yards per game).

DEFENSE

• The Chiefs ranked eighth against the run (98.2 yards allowed per game) and ninth against the pass (231.1 yards allowed per game).
• The Patriots ranked ninth against the run (98.8 yards allowed per game) and 17th against the pass (240.7 yards allowed per game).

THE LAST TIME

The Chiefs defeated the Patriots, 41-14, in Week 4 of the 2014 season at Arrowhead Stadium.

Saturday’s game between the Chiefs and Patriots marks the 34th time the two teams will meet, but first in the postseason.

The Chiefs lead the all-time series with a 17-13-3 edge.

CONNECTIONS

• Chiefs assistant offensive line coach Eugene Chung was the 13th  overall pick by New England in the 1992 NFL Draft and played three seasons for the Patriots (1992-94).
• Chiefs defensive line coach Tommy Brasher held the same position with the Patriots from 1982-84.
• Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll  served as the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs in 2012.
• Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea served with the Chiefs as a volunteer/assistant special teams in 2003 and as an assistant special teams/linebackers coach from 2004-05.

QUOTABLE

Chiefs coach Andy Reid, a BYU alumnus, on safety Daniel Sorensen, also a BYU alumnus, being a team captain during the pregame coin flip:

“He went to the right school.”

Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub when told kicker Cairo Santos called around the league to kickers and studied film of every field goal and point-after-touchdown (PAT) attempt at Gillette Stadium to gain an understanding of the wind:

He’s a professional, he’s a true professional.”

Former Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter duringa  telephone interview predicting the winner of Saturday’s game between the Chiefs and Patriots:

“I’m going to go with the Chiefs. I have to go with Coach Reid. I mean, I root for Kansas City as if I played there.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick on the effectiveness of headsets on the opponent’s sideline at Gillette Stadium during a conference call with Chiefs beat writers:

“You’d have to ask the other teams that use them.”

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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