The horse shoe is the universal sign of good luck.
Unless it’s the Kansas City Chiefs and that horse shoe is on the other team’s helmet.
Since 1990 the Chiefs have gone to the playoffs 14 times and have a miserable 4-14 record to show for those Januarys. The Indianapolis Colts have been responsible for four of those post-season ousters. Logically, the top-seeded Chiefs have drawn the worst possible opponent for their opening game of the 2018 playoffs – the Colts. They meet Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs have faced the Colts in the playoffs with four different head coaches – Marty Schottenheimer, Dick Vermeil, Herman Edwards and Andy Reid -- and three different quarterbacks – Steve Bono, Trent Green and Alex Smith – but have an 0-4 to show for it. Kansas City has lost to three different Indianapolis coaches – Ted Marchibroda, Tony Dungy and Chuck Pagano – and three different quarterbacks – Jim Harbaugh, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
Reid is back this go round with a new quarterback – Patrick Mahomes. Luck also is back this time around with a new coach – Frank Reich. On paper, the 12-4 Chiefs are the better team with the NFL’s highest scoring and best offense. But Kansas City has been the better team on paper before and it didn’t matter. Here’s the rundown of the four previous playoff meetings with the Colts since 1990:
1995: Indianapolis 10, Kansas City 7
The Chiefs were the AFC’s top-seeded team with a 13-3 record and brought the NFL’s No. 1 ranked rushing attack and No. 2 ranked defense into the game. The Colts were the fifth seed, sneaking into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. On a brutally cold day at Arrowhead – there was a wind-chill of minus-9 at kickoff – both teams struggled to throw the football and score any points.
Kansas City took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Bono to Lake Dawson. But that would be it for the Chiefs. Lin Elliott missed all three of his field-goal attempts from 35, 39 and, in the closing seconds, a 42-yarder that would have sent the game into overtime. The Chiefs did run the ball well that day with Marcus Allen gaining 94 yards on 21 carries. Indy's Harbaugh was only 12 of 27 passing for 112 yards. Bono was a mere 11 of 25 passing for 122 yards. The difference was Bono threw three interceptions, all in the second half, including the final two in the fourth quarter.
2003: Indianapolis 38, Kansas City 31
The Chiefs were the AFC’s second-seed with a 13-3 record and brought the NFL’s highest-scoring team and No. 2 offense into the game. The Colts were the third seed with a 12-4 record and brought the NFL’s second-highest scoring team and No. 3 offense to Kansas City. An offensive shootout was expected on an unseasonably warm day at Arrowhead (51 degrees) and it materialized, producing the rare NFL game without any punts.
Manning passed for 304 yards and three touchdowns and Edgerrin James rushed for 125 yards and two more scores for the Colts. Green passed for 212 yards and a touchdown and Priest Holmes rushed for 176 yards and two scores for the Chiefs. But in a game that you needed to score on every possession to survive, the Chiefs didn’t. Hall of Fame kicker Morten Andersen missed a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter after KC drove to the Indy 13, then Holmes fumbled on the opening possession of the third quarter at the tail end of a 48-yard run at the Indianapolis 22.
2006: Indianapolis 23, Kansas City 8
For the first time in this playoff series the Colts were the higher-seeded team and host of the game. The Colts went 12-4 for the AFC’s third seed and the Chiefs reached the playoffs with a 9-7 mark as the sixth seed. Indianapolis brought the NFL’s second-highest scoring team and No. 2 offense into the game. The Chiefs hung their hat on a Top 10 rushing attack that featured battering-ram Larry Johnson, a 1,700-yard rusher.
But Johnson couldn’t run in the game and the Colts could. Johnson was held to 32 yards on 13 carries while Indy’s two-back tandem of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes combined to rush for 190 yards. Addai contributed 122 of the yards and a touchdown. Adam Vinatieri kicked three field goals, including a 50-yarder on the final play of the first half to give the Colts a 9-0 lead. The legs of Addai, Rhodes and Vinatieri helped offset a three-interception day by Manning. The Chiefs would go home and the Colts would go on to win the Super Bowl.
2013: Indianapolis 45, Kansas City 44
The two teams brought identical 11-5 records into the game at the RCA Dome with the Colts the AFC South champion and the Chiefs a wild card. Kansas City finished second in the AFC in scoring and second in the NFL in defensive takeaways. The Colts were a mediocre 15th in the NFL in offense and 20th in defense. On paper, for the third time in the four-game playoff series with the Colts, the Chiefs appeared to have the better team.
And Kansas City looked every bit the better team for the game’s first 32 minutes, trampling the Colts for almost 350 yards in dashing out to a 38-10 lead. But Indianapolis chipped away over the final 28 minutes with three touchdown passes and a rushing TD by Luck. His third and final scoring pass covered 64 yards to T.Y. Hilton with four minutes left in regulation. Needing only a field goal, the Chiefs had the offense and the time on the clock to win the game. But it ended on downs at the Indianapolis 43 in the final two minutes. Smith wound up with 378 yards passing and four touchdowns but Luck bested him with 443 yards and four scores. The 28-point comeback ranks as the second-best in NFL post-season history.