Chiefs prepare for mirthless home finale vs Colts
The electronic ribbon board that encircles one of the decks at Arrowhead Stadium still boasts before games that the home of the Kansas City Chiefs is the loudest in the NFL.
The 40-year-old building is configured in such a way that sound tends to reverberate inside the bowl, creating a deafening home-field advantage. Veterans who played there years ago often said they couldn't hear themselves talking amid the din.
''It's the No. 1 outside stadium I've ever been in'' in terms of noise, said Colts interim coach Bruce Arians, who coached running backs for the Chiefs from 1989-92.
''The only place that was even close, when I was in Kansas City, we went to Buffalo and Jim Kelly and those guys, we played them on Monday night in Kansas City,'' he said. ''Then we went there for the playoffs and they were rocking our buses. We could hardly get in the parking lot.''
All that ruckus in Kansas City seems to be a thing of the past, washed away by an on-field product that has been dull, inept and unsuccessful.
These days, you could probably hear a baby rattle in the upper deck.
''You're supposed to have a home-field advantage with the Chiefs. It's been that way for years,'' said linebacker Derrick Johnson, who's been around long enough to remember some of them.
The Chiefs were 7-1 at home when he broke into the league as a rookie. It was their final year under Dick Vermeil, and they went 10-6 overall, but failed to qualify for the playoffs.
The Chiefs were 6-2 at home the following year, when they went 9-7 under Herm Edwards and were beaten by the Colts in the postseason. And even two years ago under Todd Haley, the Chiefs managed to go 10-6 and qualify for the playoffs because they went 7-1 at home.
That 2010 season is quickly becoming the aberration. Kansas City was 2-6 at home in 2007 and 1-7 each of the next two years. They were 3-5 last season and are 1-6 with one game left in 2012, making them a combined 12-27 over the past five seasons.
That's a .308 winning percentage. In a place where they've won better than 57 percent of their games.
''You want to go out without a bad taste in our mouth at home,'' Johnson said, shaking his head. ''We've only won one game at home. You want to play better at home.''
Instead, the Chiefs have only that one victory at home this season. If they go 1-7 at Arrowhead again, well, the last time they managed only one victory before 2008 was 1977.
Empty seats have been multiplying with every loss the past two seasons, too. While the Chiefs' average home attendance remains 69,304 - good for 13th in the NFL - it also represents just 90.3 percent of capacity, better only than six teams in the league.
Pure attendance figures aren't necessarily representative of the number of fans walking into the stadium, either. There have been thousands of no-shows throughout the year, and the official count is also buoyed by opposing fans - and even curious Chiefs fans - who have shown up in droves to see the Oakland Raiders, or Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
The Chiefs' game against Oakland drew a season-best 74,730, while their game against the Broncos drew 74,244. But against the Carolina Panthers, who lack the same gravitas of two bitter AFC West rivals, just 62,860 people showed up on a mild December afternoon.
Ask around the league these days, and Arrowhead Stadium hardly merits honorable mention among the loudest venues. The Superdome and other indoor stadiums generally top the list, and CenturyLink Field in Seattle was designed to ramp up the volume.
''We need to play better at home. We haven't consistently done that,'' said Johnson, when asked what it would take to restore the verve to the home of the Chiefs.
Throw out last week's game against Oakland, when the Chiefs' offense was so inept it skewed just about every statistic, and Kansas City has been more productive on the road.
Arguably its best game came when it rallied from 18 down to beat the Saints 27-24 in New Orleans. The Chiefs also took the Pittsburgh Steelers to overtime on the road before losing.
Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn is stumped by the lack of success, but he does know that winning the home finale against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday would help assuage some of the angst.
''I think it would be a sweet taste in everyone's mouth,'' Quinn said, ''if we could leave there for the last time this season with a win.''
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