As any Chiefs fan will be happy to tell you, it’s been years since there was any game with playoff implications played in Kansas City. With so many young players that have yet to face any kind of pressure in the NFL, how will they react? Adam Teicher spoke to veterans Brian Waters and Ryan Lilja about handling the biggest game a lot of these players have ever experienced.
“It’s a big game, obviously, but you don’t want to make too much of it,” said guard Ryan Lilja, a veteran of many such games from his seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.
“You just want to go about your business like you always do. It’s a big deal and everybody’s going to be talking about it and the pressure’s up, but you can’t let that affect how you prepare for the game. If you do, it could set you back.
“We can’t get wrapped up in all the hype. That’s the way you approach a big game like this.”
“I’m not concerned,” Waters said.
“I like our young guys. That’s one thing about our young guys that has probably been a big influence on our football team and a big reason for our success is our young guys aren’t scared of anything. These guys have played in big games in college, they have a lot of leadership skills, and they’re fearless. That’s something as a veteran football player that takes a big burden off you, trying to get those guys ready.
“They’re already ready. They’ve got that type of intensity, the characteristics inside of them that makes them want to take on the big games. Now it’s time. We’ve got a week to put our heads together and put our emotions together.”
It really is incredible if you look up and down the Chiefs roster and try to pick out players that have played in an NFL playoff game, forget about actually winning any. Lilja is one that has not only won, but won plenty so he needs to lead the offense this week with the help of Waters who hasn’t won any playoff games but has been to two.
Thomas Jones had a nice run with the Chicago Bears before falling short against Lilja’s Colts in the Super Bowl. He also played a big part in the Jets trip to the playoffs last year even though Shonn Greene took over as the primary back in the playoffs.
Matt Cassel went to a Super Bowl and won three division titles with the Patriots, but as we know he barely played those years. Here’s to hoping that being around Tom Brady for so long will help him know how to respond to these type of games.
On defense, it’s all about Mike Vrabel who was not only part of the same Patriots playoff teams as Cassel but also the three Super Bowl championships New England won before Cassel was drafted. There is no person more important to this Chiefs defense learning how to play in pressure games than Vrabel.
Jon McGraw played in four playoff games during his time with the Jets, going 2-2. While that is a lot of experience compared to most of the young Chiefs, it’s nothing compared to the lines of Vrabel.