INDIANAPOLIS – Winning away from home is a staple of playoff teams.
Chuck Pagano knows this, and that is why he delivered that message to the Colts in mid-June.
"In the NFL, we've always said this, 'If you go undefeated at home and you split on the road, then you would be in the playoffs ever year,' " Pagano said.
His wisdom could not be more accurate as the Colts sit a game away from the playoffs and looking to finish with a 4-4 road record.
If the playoffs started today, the five other teams topping the AFC each have at least four road wins, while the rest of the conference teams do not.
The fourth win for the Colts can come this weekend, but it would have to come at one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
"It starts with the 'Home of the Chiefs', star-spangled banner," outside linebacker Robert Mathis said of Arrowhead Stadium. "They have very passionate fans. 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."
At 2-12, the Chiefs' chances at the postseason have passed, but they still possess a pair of big-play threats on offense.
Running back Jamaal Charles is second in the AFC with 1,230 rushing yards and Dexter McCluster is the leading active receiver with 48 receptions.
"Those backs that they have, they're young Chris Johnsons, they can fly," Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians said. "We can't let them out on screen passes, or flair passes or running plays. We've got to control (Jamaal) Charles and (Dexter) McCluster, or they'll take it to the house on us."
Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn is expected to start his fifth straight game after stepping in for injured starter Matt Cassel.
The Chiefs look at Sunday as a chance to get better and build momentum, rather than playing "spoiler" to the Colts' post-season aspirations.
"We've got a big challenge on our hands looking at their defense and what they bring to the table," Quinn said. "Like I said over the past two weeks, we haven't done very well on first and second down putting us in a position to really convert on third down. That's really hurt us trying to have any sort of consistency to move the football."
The Chiefs won their last home contest two weeks ago, and Head Coach Romeo Crennel says there are a few specific areas for improvement to earn another victory.
'We've gotten a little bit better at eliminating turnovers which were big earlier in the year, and that hurt us," Crennel said.
"We've got better at giving up the big passes which hurt us early in the year. We've done better on penalties, because we had inopportune penalties that hurt us. Those are the three main things that have been our downfall this year."
Indianapolis knows Kansas City's record is no indicator of a team that has a handful of former first-round draft picks on defense. Kansas City has lost three one-possession games to teams in the AFC playoff picture.
The path to a strong road record began back in the summer and with a win on Sunday, the Colts will have achieved that mark while punching their ticket into the month of January.
"Our coaches talk about how we don't want to sit back and wait for somebody else to lose to probably increase our chances to make it," running back Vick Ballard said. "We want to handle our business. We didn't get it done this past week so this coming week, we want to accomplish that."
Chiefs 28, Colts 24 – October 9, 2011
A matchup of two of division-winners in 2010 looked much different months later as injuries sidelined Peyton Manning and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. The Colts came out firing with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Curtis Painter finding Pierre Garcon for a six-yard touchdown. The teams settled for punts on the next three drives before the Colts got on the board again. Early in the second quarter, Adam Vinatieri connected on a 53-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead. Another three-and-out for the Chiefs followed, and the Colts struck quickly when Painter found Garcon for a 67-yard touchdown reception on the ensuing play. The Colts were up, 17-0, with 11 minutes remaining in the half. Kansas City scored two drives later when Matt Cassel found Dwayne Bowe for a 41-yard touchdown. That touchdown ignited three scores in the final 5:11, with Delone Carter scoring from three yards out to give Indianapolis a 24-7 lead. The Chiefs cut the lead to 24-14 at halftime with Cassel tossing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Steve Breaston. The teams traded punts to begin the second half before Cassel found Bowe on a five-yard touchdown pass with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. Looking to pad its 24-21 lead, the Colts offense could not find the same success of the first half. Kansas City took over at its 46-yard line with 9:54 remaining and on a third-and-two, Cassel hit Breaston for an 11-yard touchdown with 5:15 to go. Down 28-24, the Colts lost the ball on downs at the Chiefs' 41-yard. The Chiefs ran out the final 2:24 for the road victory.
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles versus the Colts defense: In returning from a knee injury that ended his 2011 season, Charles has been terrific. He ranks second in the AFC in rushing yards. The injury to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has added to the importance of Charles this weekend. The Colts defense tends to do better against quicker running backs, and Charles certainly fits that mold. However, the status of inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (thumb) will be a topic all the way until kickoff.
Colts offensive line versus the Chiefs front seven: Arrowhead Stadium is widely known as one of the loudest places to play, making the line calls from whomever starts at center vital this week. After the line gained some stability during the middle of the season, it has been back to "Next Man Up" over the past couple of weeks. If A.Q. Shipley cannot start, look for right guard Mike McGlynn to slide over. The line will be facing a 3-4 Chiefs defense that is paced by 18 combined sacks from outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.
-The Colts are looking to become the fourth team in NFL history to win 10 or more games following a season with two or fewer victories.
-Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (3,978) needs 74 passing yards to pass Carolina's Cam Newton for the most by a rookie in NFL history.
-Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne needs three receptions to reach 100 for the fourth time. It would tie him for second-most in NFL history.
-Colts outside linebacker Dwight Freeney has 105.5 career sacks, which is fifth among active players.
-Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis has eight sacks in 10 games this season.
-The Chiefs average 139.3 rushing yards per game, third-best in the AFC.
-Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn has won three of his past five starts in December.
-Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is averaging 91.4 rushing yards per home game this season.
-Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (61.5) has the third-most sacks in Chiefs history.
-Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson leads the team with 112 tackles this season.
-Chiefs offensive guard/center Ryan Lilja played six seasons for the Colts (2004-09).
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on why team has been able to turn things around so quickly):
"I think they bought into a message, and there's a lot of new faces that bonded. They found a reason to play and when a team finds a reason to play, they'll overcome some things. Chuck (Pagano)'s illness took everybody, even strangers that we would bring off the street on Wednesday and we'd play on Sunday, and they'd fight their tails off. When you have guys playing hard for 60 minutes, you're going to win some games because most teams in this league don't play hard for 60 minutes."
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on the run defense and the need to keep things sound throughout the game and not just 95 percent of the time):
"You've got to keep fighting and battling every play. One guy starts getting out of the gap and their great running back is going to find it. You've got to have great gap control. You can't miss tackles, and we started getting chopped a little bit late in that (Houston) game. Offensively, we needed to get our defense off the field and keep them off the field, and our third-down completion percentage was so poor we put our defense back on the field so much. That's why it's a team game."
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on where Arrowhead Stadium ranks in terms of noise):
"It's the number one outside stadium I've ever been in. The only place that was even close when I was in Kansas City, we went to Buffalo. 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."
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck(on dealing with what's on the table this week):
"I think we realize what's on the table. If we can win, a chance to get into the playoffs. I think we are excited about that opportunity and realize this is the biggest game we've played yet this year. I think as far as the expectation, we understand if we win, playoffs. If we don't, I guess it's still there, but we want to win."
Colts defensive end Cory Redding(on team bouncing back from every loss):
"Never allow one loss to turn into two, period. You have to dig deep a little bit more to learn what you messed up on, work on it and challenge yourself to be better. If you made those mistakes a week before, don't make them again. Don't let one loss turn into two. We've come too far to reach this point to let it all go away, let it all be in vain. I won't stand idly by and let that happen, and I know my teammates won't either."
Chiefs Head Coach Romeo Crennel(on how to keep chopping wood when things have not gone well this year):
"I know that the only chance I have to make them go well is to keep chopping wood. You have to do that because like I tell the players, 'If you give up, you have no chance.' You just have to keep working and get things right. Every Sunday, we go out and we try to do it right. It hasn't been happening right for us this year, but we've got two games left to try and get it right. We are just going to keep working at it."
Chiefs Head Coach Romeo Crennel(on if offense is strained by being largely run-oriented):
"It puts more strain on it when you can't operate effectively in the running game. If you are able to run the ball some, then the passing game, even though it's not clicking, you still have a chance to win if you can play good defense. Now, if you've got the running game going and you can get a little bit done in the passing game, that keeps the defenses off balance. They can't load up the box. When you can't throw it and you can't gain some chunks of yards, that puts more pressure on the whole team as a whole."
Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn(on his progress since taking over):
"Obviously, the past couple weeks we really haven't accomplished any of the things we've been wanting to do on the offensive side of the ball. We didn't get off to a fast start last week and really put ourselves in the hole. We've got plenty of stuff that we can work on and try to improve going into this week."
Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn(on what it will take to win from offensive standpoint):
"It starts with not turning the football over, you've got to give yourself a chance there. You've got to be able to run the ball. We can't be a one-dimensional team. We've got a gift, a guy like Jamaal Charles, so we've got to give the ball to him and and let him do some special things. We've got to be more productive on first and second downs, that will allow us to be in a third-and-more-manageable situation instead of these third-and-10-pluses we've been dealing with. I don't care who you are, no matter what the offense is it's going to be tough to convert those. Then when it comes down to it, we've got to continue to sustain and score points in the red zone, not field goals, touchdowns."