KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No member of coach Andy Reid’s first Kansas City Chiefs team needs to be reminded of what happened the last time they traveled to Indianapolis to play the Colts. The memories of the 45-44 playoff loss concluding the 2013 season still sting and linger as though it happened yesterday.
“Toughest loss ever,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “Losses all hurt. That one hurts just a little bit more.”
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe shares the same feeling about the loss.
“It was a long, long offseason to think about it,” Poe said.
The Chiefs built a 31-10 halftime and took a 28-point advantage with 13 minutes 39 seconds to play in the third quarter when the disintegration began.
“It was one of those moments,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
Three third-quarter touchdowns by the Colts and a Chiefs field goal from Ryan Succop made it a 41-31 game entering the fourth quarter.
On second down from the 2-yard line, safety Eric Berry drilled Donald Brown in the backfield and the ball popped loose. But instead of the Chiefs corralling possession and staving off the Colts, the ball bounced directly into the hands of quarterback Andrew Luck, who scooped up the ball and made his way to the end zone.
“At that point we had made a few plays and the momentum had turned and you feed off of plays like that,” Pagano said.
Defensive lineman Jaye Howard said that team learned a lesson about putting opponents away when the opportunity arises.
“We didn’t finish, we didn’t finish well,” Howard said. “We allowed them to hang around. We didn’t get much pressure on Luck. We can’t let that happen this week.”
The what-if and could-have-been debates make the game iconic among Chiefs’ fans. But on the winning side of the equation, the importance of the game weighs much less, especially to Luck.
“I don’t know if it was an iconic win or not,” Luck said. “I just know it was a big win for us and it helped us advance. One more weekend in the playoffs, right?”
The only meaning Luck attaches to the win is the memory it holds as his first playoff win.
“I told our guys today that were asking about it and the media, it has zero bearing on this year,” Luck said “It’s not frustrating to talk about, but to me, it doesn’t matter. It’s a moot point.”
Both teams have evolved since that playoff game. Luck and Hilton have grown into one of the league’s most feared quarterback-receiver combo. Only one Chiefs player who caught a pass from Alex Smith in that game – fullback Anthony Sherman – remains a Chiefs today.
Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley is among the new faces to join the Chiefs since that 2013 game. Winning this game remains all about making the 2016 playoffs, not exorcising past demons.
“This team is a different team than it was in the past,” Conley said. “And I think knowing that, moving forward, the guys are just focusing on the now.”
The veteran Howard agreed with focusing on the future Sunday.
“We definitely want to beat them,” Howard said. “We’re trying to win our division. That’s our goal right now.”