INDIANAPOLIS – Pre-2007 AFC Championship game, many Colts fans remember Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium as the site of perhaps the most significant victory in the club’s Indianapolis era, that being in the 1996 Divisional Playoffs when the underdog Colts pulled off a 10-7 dramatic win in arctic conditions over the heavily-favored Chiefs.
The Wild Card Colts were playing in minus-nine wind chill conditions and beat the 12-4, top-seeded Chiefs on the way to a conference title date in Pittsburgh.
Until the Colts topped New England to advance to Super Bowl XLI, that game could have been top-ranked in the minds of many Indianapolis fans.
The Colts also won a Divisional Playoff game in Arrowhead in 2003, and Indianapolis visits the historic stadium this Sunday for the first time eight years as it tries to earn another post-season ticket.
At 9-5, a win or tie this Sunday by the Colts over the 2-12 Chiefs will earn that bid. Indianapolis will have to do so in a stadium built in 1972 that remains state-of-the-art – and loud.
“It’s the number one outside stadium I’ve ever been in. The only place that was even close, was when I was in Kansas City we went to Buffalo,” said Bruce Arians, the Chiefs’ RB coach from 1989-92. “Jim Kelly and those guys, we played them on Monday night in Kansas City and beat them, 30-0. Then went there for the playoffs and they were rocking our buses, we could hardly get in the parking lot.
“Arrowhead Stadium has got a very unique flavor to it. I mean it was built state-of-the-art at its time, and it’s still state-of-the-art with the parking and the tailgating. The whole thing they have out there is fabulous. It’s great.”
Greg Manusky was a linebacker/special teamer who spent his final playing time (1994-99) with the Chiefs. He claims Arrowhead is an NFL-must for fans and players – a destination spot like other revered league outposts.
“It’s a Lambeau. It’s Kansas City. There were some great days,” said Manusky. “I think Arrowhead has been there the longest, since 1972. They’ve kept the stadium up to par with what it should be in the National Football League – great stadium, great fans, a great atmosphere in general. It’s up there among the loudest.
“Playing there for six years, there are a lot of great memories. We won a lot of games. It was fun playing ball there with the crowd and listening to the end (of the anthem) when they used to say, ‘Chiefs.’ That was cool.”
“I love it. I love the history behind it,” said Freeney. “All the fans, all the red, national anthem, home of the ‘Chiefs.’ It’s kind of what football is all about. It’s kind of what you envision what home field is all about.”
Chiefs fans are devoted, clever and willing to do their best to derail the opponent. Freeney’s tag-team partner
“It starts with the ‘Home of the Chiefs’, (the) star-spangled banner. They have very passionate fans,” said Mathis. “They are going to get on you, talk about your mommas and try and do whatever they can to get into your head. You just have to play football.”
The Colts this year have won six games in the fourth quarter, one shy of the NFL mark. Indianapolis leads the league with nine games decided by seven points or less.
The nature of this year’s team has been to play close games. Quick starts have not been common.
“(We need to) play well. Come out and if the defense is on the field, stop the run, fly around. Offense, if they’re out there, take the ball down and score, and special teams play well,” said Bethea. “We just have to play our style of ball.
“It’s my first time playing in Kansas City, and I’m hearing great stories about their crowd. I hear it’s great out there. For us as a team, (we need to) play our style of ball and take them out of it quick.”