As much as the Chiefs love Arrowhead Stadium, they relish playing the spoiler on the road

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Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco (10) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter of an NFL AFC division playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Isiah Pacheco had just spent four quarters dodging the Buffalo Bills, and churning his way for nearly 100 yards rushing and a touchdown, when he was finally able to celebrate the Kansas City Chiefs advancing to another AFC championship game.

He did it while dodging some snowballs from the fans.

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That probably wouldn't have happened inside friendly Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs had played all their playoff games the previous five seasons, along with their wild-card win over Miami earlier this postseason.

But they were finally forced onto the road for the divisional round last weekend, and they proved they were up to the challenge in a 27-24 win over the Bills.

“We appreciated them throwing snowballs. That was fun,” Pacheco said Wednesday. “It comes with the game. We love playing in that environment. You have to love that, going there with one goal and coming out with the goal you went with.”

The Chiefs will face a similar environment Sunday, when they visit Baltimore to play the Ravens for a spot in the Super Bowl.

It will be the first time in six years the AFC championship will be decided somewhere other than Kansas City, where Patrick Mahomes and Co. have been so successful over the years. And it will be the first time the Chiefs hit the road for a conference title game since Jan. 23, 1994, when Joe Montana was the quarterback and they lost 30-13 in Buffalo.

“I didn't think much of going on the road, that it would be much different. We do it during the season,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “It was a great environment up there (in Buffalo) to play, even though they were against you. It's really football right there, and they love their team, and they're passionate. It's a great environment. That's the way I look at it.”

That's the way Mahomes looks at it, too.

One of the popular storylines heading into last weekend concerned the fact that Mahomes had never played on the road in the postseason.

Now, the headline has changed to this: Mahomes has never lost on the road in the postseason.

“I love Arrowhead Stadium,” he said, “but it's always fun when you come together as a team and really be like, ‘It's you all versus everybody,' and you get the win. It's always great to be in great environments and find a way.”

The Chiefs have found a way before, though you have to go back in the record books. the previous time they won on the road in the postseason to reach the Super Bowl was Jan. 4, 1970, when they beat the Raiders 17-7 in Oakland in the AFL championship game; they proceeded to beat the Vikings for what would be their only Super Bowl title for five decades, until Reid and Mahomes came along.

They also won in Buffalo on Jan. 1, 1967, in the AFL championship game to reach the first Super Bowl, where they lost to the Packers of Vince Lombardi.

Winning a conference title game on the road is hardly an easy endeavor, though. Home teams are 35-18 in NFC title games and 36-17 in the AFC championship game, where the Chiefs went 3-2 in the past five that were played in Kansas City.

But the Chiefs also might be built for winning away from home. They have experienced players in Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and others, and an experienced staff led by Reid, who also coached Philadelphia to five NFC title games. Their talent was evident by three players that were chosen first-team All-Pro: left guard Joe Thuney, cornerback Trent McDuffie and defensive tackle Chris Jones. And many of those players have been playing alongside each other for years.

All of those factors help to explain why the Chiefs were 6-2 away from home during the regular season — they were just 5-4 at Arrowhead Stadium — and why they so relish the opportunity to play spoiler in someone else's home.

“It's important for us,” Pacheco admitted. “It means so much when you have to go to another environment with a 53-man roster, understand it's y'all against the city, and when you come out successful, it means a lot. Shows how hard we've been working.”

NOTES: Pacheco (toe) did not practice Wednesday, though his injury is not considered serious enough to keep him out of the game. ... Thuney (pectoral strain) did not practice and appears a long shot to play. Versatile veteran Nick Allegretti would take his place. ... FS Mike Edwards remained in the concussion protocol, which could mean rookie DB Chamarri Conner gets the start in his spot. ... RG Trey Smith did not practice Wednesday because of an illness.



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