HOUSTON -- Twenty-two years of dismal history had just been put to rest in a rather emphatic manner, but the Kansas City Chiefs were ready for more.
They barely noticed 22 years and eight losses' worth of franchise postseason futility had come to an end with Saturday’s 30-0 first-round playoff victory over the Houston Texans. The Chiefs certainly weren’t impressed or even satisfied by winning a playoff game for the first time since 1994.
“You can win one playoff game, two playoff games or even three playoff games, but if you don’t win the big one it’s not a successful season," said tight end Travis Kelce, who had a big receiving game with eight catches for 128 yards. “That’s just our mentality, that’s just how we’re wired. We’re going to go into our next game believing that.
“Trust me. Each game’s going to get harder, but our eyes are going to stay on the prize and we’re going to stay focused."
Doubt Kelce, or the Chiefs, at a great deal of risk. They started the season thinking they would be one of NFL’s best teams and were more stunned than any observer when they opened 1-5.
Yet they wouldn’t give up on their goals. They kept after them and piled one win on top of another until they had 10 to finish the regular season and now one, for a change, in the postseason.
The Chiefs' celebration two weeks ago when they clinched a playoff spot was muted. They had accomplished a milestone, but hadn’t reached the goal.
Though after winning in Houston they were certainly happy to be moving on to next Saturday's divisional-round playoff game at the New England Patriots, they weren’t ready to start the party. The Chiefs have been in playoff mode for some time, each game a danger to end their season for all intents and purposes, if not literally. This began before the leaves started to turn, so things in Kansas City’s locker room are really no different now than they were three months ago.
They feel that sense of urgency because, well, it’s what the Chiefs do.
“I don’t think the attitude changes,’’ quarterback Alex Smith said. “We’ve kind of been playing like that for a while now. It’s all we know now, a little bit.’’
There’s no reason to believe that will change now, even with a playoff win in the new millennium finally on the list of franchise accomplishments. The Chiefs have had the ability to focus on the task at hand, and it would be stunning if this playoff victory, as impressive and one-sided as it was, knocked them off stride.
“It’s a single-elimination tournament, so we’ve got to keep going,’’ coach Andy Reid.
The Chiefs who remain from the 2013 team thought they had that elusive playoff victory in January 2014, when they led the Indianapolis Colts 38-10 in the third quarter. They then watched in horror, almost as if helpless, when the Colts stormed back for a 45-44 victory.
Smith acknowledged thinking about that defeat as the Chiefs squandered scoring chances in Saturday's first half and led just 13-0 despite returning a kickoff for a touchdown and creating four turnovers.
All those thoughts did, though, was generate motivation.
“You get to the playoffs and in that first round, if things don’t go well, that rips your heart out a little bit,’’ Reid said.
The Chiefs’ playoff demons are buried, at long last, but in their locker room that’s not the point. Kansas City instead is thinking it’s come too far to turn back now.