Chiefs face Texans looking for 1st playoff win in 22 years

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) If the Kansas City Chiefs believe in karma or coincidence or some sort of cosmic alignment, then they should be confident their 22-year drought without a playoff victory will soon come to an end.

Start with the fact they're heading to Houston on Saturday to face the AFC South champion Texans. The last time the Chiefs won a playoff game? They beat the Oilers in Houston.

Then consider their cross-parking lot neighbors, the Kansas City Royals, who snapped a 30-year stretch without a World Series title last season. Where did their playoff run begin? Houston.

All good signs?

''It could be,'' Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. ''Hopefully so.''

Of all the teams in the National Football League, few have such a woeful recent playoff history as Kansas City. Twice the franchise went one-and-done as the AFC's top seed, and on more than one occasion it's been eliminated in the most heartbreaking of fashions.

In 1995, the Chiefs went 13-3 to earn a first-round bye, only to get Jim Harbaugh and the Colts in frigid weather at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City turned the ball over four times, a big part of the 10-7 defeat. The game will forever be known for Lin Elliott's three missed field goals.

Two years later, Rich Gannon guided the Chiefs to the No. 1 seed in place of an injured Elvis Grbac, only to return to the bench when Grbac was healthy enough for the playoffs. The offense slumped, the Chiefs lost 14-10 to the Broncos, and Marty Schottenheimer's quarterback call remains one of the most controversial coaching decisions in franchise history.

Fast-forward to 2003, and the Chiefs again went 13-3 behind one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. But they also fielded one of the most porous defenses, and Peyton Manning and the Colts never had to punt in their 38-31 victory.

''I don't think this team's carrying that weight, to be honest,'' Smith said of all those postseason letdowns. ''Those were the other 22 years and 22 teams. This is us.''

Most of ''us'' were part of the most recent heartache.

Two years ago, Smith guided the Chiefs to a wild-card matchup in Indianapolis after one of the most remarkable turnarounds in franchise history. And it appeared certain the Chiefs would finally end their playoff hex when they built a 28-point lead on Andrew Luck and Co. in the third quarter.

Then, Donald Brown started to rip off big runs. Luck suddenly couldn't miss, and his 64-yard touchdown pass to TY Hilton completed the second-biggest postseason comeback in NFL history.

Many players on the Chiefs' roster that night are on the team heading to Houston this weekend, and most of them acknowledged this week that they haven't forgotten that stinging defeat.

''It has to drive you,'' veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson said. ''Now don't get me wrong, it's a different year, different team, different situation. But whenever you let an opportunity pass you by like we did a couple years ago, you learn from it. And I think this team's learned from it.''

Nobody could say exactly what those lessons were, though.

For Chiefs coach Andy Reid, it was this: ''You've got to finish the game.''

''You've got to score touchdowns. That's what it's all about,'' he said. ''It doesn't really matter how many points you're up by, you've got to find a way to get it in the end zone, and there were some things there that I could've done better to help that.''

Reid deserves a bit of a pass, though. That's the only one of Kansas City's six straight playoff defeats on his resume. The others belong to Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil, Herm Edwards and Todd Haley.

In fact, Reid won 10 playoff games with the Philadelphia Eagles since the Chiefs last won in the postseason. That includes two victories in 2004, when the Eagles reached the Super Bowl.

Reid said he understands the emotional pain so many Chiefs fans have experienced, all their years of suffering come January. So while this team may not carry the baggage of those playoff flops, there remains a sense of purpose in finally putting an end to them.

''When you talk about the sea of red, man, it's real and they're passionate,'' Reid said of the fans. ''We definitely keep that in mind. I didn't know the record - I mean, I didn't know the whole playoff thing. But we appreciate their support. We're playing for Kansas City.''

NOTES: LB Justin Houston (hyperextended knee) confirmed Wednesday he plans to play Saturday. He's been out since Nov. 29. ... LB Dee Ford (concussion), C Mitch Morse (concussion) and S Husain Abdullah (personal reasons) did not participate in practice. LB Tamba Hali got the day off to protect his knees from swelling with the team practicing on the indoor turf.

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