It’s true that Sports Illustrated called Arrowhead Stadium the “toughest place to play” in the NFL … in 2005.
And that in 2014 the crowd for a Monday Night Football game against New England reclaimed the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium with a reading of 142.2 decibels.
Even if you might be skeptical of that science given the curious way the record was derived here in 2013 — via the ‘attenuation monitor” of the self-described Guinness adjudicator in the waning seconds of a 24-7 victory over Oakland — this is a nice standard to bear and take pride in.
Moreover, the Chiefs also have won 18 of their last 23 games at home entering their AFC divisional round game on Sunday against Pittsburgh.
As it happens, when the Steelers last were at Arrowhead in 2015, they served as the reset button for the Chiefs’ 1-5 start.
The Chiefs’ 23-13 victory over Pittsburgh that day, albeit with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out injured, commenced an 11-game winning streak that included the Chiefs’ first playoff win in 22 years.
“Noise is a factor,” Chiefs president Mark Donovan said. “And our fans are good at being loud.”
But any proclamation of an Arrowhead advantage or aura or mystique has to be offset by an asterisk.
And not just because weather forecasts calling for the metro area to become Ice Station Zebra forced the game time to be moved to Sunday night, and suggest attendance could suffer ... or that those in attendance might be muted in suspended animation.
In what may make for some fine symmetry, the Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since beating the Steelers 27-24 in overtime in 1994 — which until the Chiefs beat the Texans in Houston last January had stood as their last overall playoff victory.
For context, only the Bengals and Lions have gone longer without home playoff victories.
But that’s only part of a stranger truth, one that is only too familiar to dedicated fans but likely unknown to more casual observers.
Here is the complete and unabridged list of home playoff victories for the franchise that made its debut as the Dallas Texans in 1960 and began play in Kansas City in 1963:
▪ Dec. 28, 1991: A 10-6 win over the then-Los Angeles Raiders.
▪ Jan. 8, 1994: The aforementioned victory over the Steelers.
And … that’s all, folks, the only upsides of the franchise’s 2-5 home playoff ledger.
Some of this is sheer quirkiness: Even as it won the 1962, 1966 and 1969 AFL championships, including winning Super Bowl IV, the franchise played every playoff game away from home.
Part of it simply reflects the longer droughts and broader torture of Chiefs postseasons, in which they are 4-14 since winning the Super Bowl.
Their excruciating 27-24 double overtime loss to Miami on Christmas Day 1971 in the last game the Chiefs played at Municipal Stadium heralded the impending end of the glory years under Hank Stram.
The Chiefs didn’t qualify for the playoffs again until 1986 and didn’t win again until 1991, when the Carl Peterson-Marty Schottenheimer regime claimed the first of its three postseason wins in three years and the first of the two at Arrowhead.
That win over the Raiders was “tremendously significant,” Peterson, the Chiefs’ general manager from 1989-2008, said by phone the other day. “It was a major turning point.”
Trouble was, it portended more than it ever delivered, even as the Chiefs were selling out 155 straight games from 1991-2009.
“Tell me about it,” Peterson said, laughing, as he considered the frustration of not being able to advance farther into the playoffs.
The Chiefs have lost four playoff games in a row here since then, of course, and there’s no need to recite the unique anguish of each along the way.
But the lingering sting has something to do with a baffling twist.
In the 1995, 1997, 2003 and 2010 regular seasons that preceded instant playoff-opener losses at Arrowhead, the Chiefs were 31-1 at home.
This season, they’ve been 6-2 at home and on the road.
Of course, you can figure playing host beats the alternative, especially when you consider that Roethlisberger has tended to be a different player away from Pittsburgh. During the regular season, he had a 20-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio at home but it was just 9-8 on the road.
“The big difference right off the bat is that you don’t have to travel, and you have a lot of routines here,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “And then there’s the benefit of Arrowhead. For us, offensively, being able to use cadences to our advantages, (and) it goes the other way defensively when we can take advantage of the noise. Being able to lean on the crowd at times for energy is big.”
Donovan demurred when asked if the Chiefs needed a win on Sunday to reaffirm the perception of Arrowhead’s mystical powers. He suggested that having been in every NFL stadium, he can testify there’s “something special about Arrowhead, and (the) playoffs will elevate and amplify that.”
Just the same, the mystique is more a myth until the Chiefs demonstrate otherwise when it matters most.