Mahomes and Chiefs seek end to playoff jinx

Rob Woollard

Los Angeles (AFP) - Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs will look to end a 26-year playoff drought on Saturday when they take on a resurgent Indianapolis Colts team at Arrowhead Stadium.

Quarterback star Mahomes was not even born when the Chiefs last secured a home victory in the postseason, a 27-24 defeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers way back in 1993.

Since then, the Chiefs have lost six straight games at home in the playoffs, a record of failure which includes last season's agonising 22-21 home loss to the Tennessee Titans.

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Mahomes, the gifted fulcrum of a Chiefs offense which averaged a league-best 35.3 points per game during the regular season, insists however he won't feel the weight of history in this weekend's Divisional Round game with the Colts.

"That's all in the past," Mahomes said this week, when reminded of the Chiefs unfortunate habit of stumbling at the first postseason hurdle.

"All of us... we're here now. We're focused on the present day. We feel like we have a different team -- that we can go out there and win a big football game."

So far this season, Mahomes has shown little evidence that he tends to suffer from stagefright. The 23-year-old has emerged as the most exciting young quarterback in the NFL in a crowded field of emerging talent.

"It's my first playoff game," Mahomes said this week. "I'm excited just to be here, and at the same time, get the opportunity to go out there and win games like this.

"Growing up, you want to play games like this. You get older and you want to be a professional athlete, you want to win on the biggest stage."

For all Mahomes' bullish optimism, Chiefs fans still have fresh memories of the team's last meeting with the Colts in the playoffs in 2013.

On that occasion, the Chiefs romped into a 38-10 lead in the third quarter only for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to inspire a comeback for the ages to complete a magnificent 45-44 win.

- 'On a mission' -

Six years later, and Luck is once again back as the orchestrator of the Colts offense, returning after nearly two years out injured to remind the NFL of the talent which made him the first overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The 29-year-old quarterback, who played his first game for 616 days in September as he returned from a shoulder injury, has thrived under the leadership of head coach Frank Reich and was superb in the Colts clinical 21-7 defeat of the Houston Texans last weekend.

After a 1-5 start to the season, the Colts have emerged as one of form teams in the AFC, with 10 victories in their last 11 games heading into Saturday's trip to Kansas City.

Colts running back Nyheim Hines says much of that has been down to Luck, describing the quarterback as a man "on a mission."

"That dude's always locked in, laser focused," Hines said this week. "I knew he would have a good year. That dude, he's on a mission.

"I felt like he's had a lot to prove, and I felt like he felt like that."

The prize for the winner of Saturday's duel will be a meeting with either the Los Angeles Chargers or New England Patriots for a place in the Super Bowl.

The Patriots and the Chargers face each other in Foxborough on Sunday.

- 'Fear in his heart' -

In the NFC side of the draw, the free-scoring Los Angeles Rams take on the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The Rams offense was second only to the Chiefs in the regular season, with Sean McVay's team averaging more than 32 points per game.

But the Rams face a Cowboys side which possesses the best defense of any team left in the playoffs, the seventh best in the league overall this year.

The Cowboys rock solid defense has provided the foundation of not entirely convincing journey to the last eight, often bailing out an offense led by Dak Prescott that has struggled to generate consistency.

Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence says he is already preparing to give Rams quarterback Jared Goff a rough ride, offering a menacing glimpse into his competitive mindset.

"He's a quarterback, and I don't like quarterbacks," Lawrence said. "I go into every week wanting to take the quarterback's soul. You get the look in a man's eyes and see fear in his heart. That's when you know you got him. That's how I play the game, and that's how we're going to dictate the game."

The winner of Saturday's game will face either the top seed New Orleans Saints or the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, who face off in Louisiana on Sunday.

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