KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Todd Haley did a nose count to see how many Kansas City Chiefs own what he calls “priceless” playoff experience and was pleased to find that 21 do.
That also means 32 don’t.
Players who were key to Kansas City’s six-game improvement such as Jamaal Charles and Tamba Hali will be tasting playoff pressure for the first time when the Chiefs host the battle-savvy Baltimore Ravens in a 10 a.m. kickoff today on Arrowhead Stadium’s cold, hard turf.
If playoff experience proves decisive, the Ravens (12-4) should be on their way to their fourth playoff win in three seasons. Cast as the wild-card team because they lost the tiebreaker to Pittsburgh, the Ravens are 3-2 in road playoff games since January 2009.
The last time the Chiefs (10-6) won a playoff game, Haley was giving golf lessons on Long Island, wondering if a career change would be a good idea. Now, 17 years later, the Chiefs are AFC West champs and in search of their first playoff win since Joe Montana took them to the AFC title game in 1994.
“Talent is one thing,” said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a two-time NFL defensive player of the year. “Your first, second, third quarter, talent is doing great. But then that fourth quarter, experience and playoff knowledge on what you do in these tight situations and what you do against this or against that, that’s where it all clicks in at.”
The Chiefs are not entirely without playoff experience. Right guard Ryan Lilja and linebacker Mike Vrabel can impart to youthful teammates lessons they learned in Super Bowl wins.
“It’s priceless what they can pass on,” Haley said. “We’ve got 21 guys that have some experience in the playoffs. Now, a lot of it is coming from a select few, but the good thing is those guys are all really strong leaders for us that aren’t afraid to let these guys know that everything is about one thing, and that’s trying to be at our best for this (today).”
Another edge that Baltimore brings figures to be defense. Four Ravens were picked to the Pro Bowl – Lewis, linebacker Terrell Suggs, tackle Haloti Ngata and safety Ed Reed. Kansas City’s improved defense did not place anybody in the Pro Bowl.
The Ravens’ run defense ranked fifth in the league, allowing fewer than 94 yards per game.