Seven Years Later

Posted Jan 5, 2011

Brian Waters was part of the Chiefs last division championship, but prefers the makeup of this year's squad come playoff time

Brian Waters started 16 games for the 2003 Kansas City Chiefs. The same Chiefs team that began the season 9-0, won the AFC West at 13-3, set single-season rushing records and tied a team-best five-game improvement in the win column from the previous season.

Waters also started 16 games for the 2010 Kansas City Chiefs. The same Chiefs team that began the season 3-0, won the AFC West at 10-6, set single-season rushing records and posted a team-best six-game improvement in the win column from the previous season.

Waters is one of the final links to the Chiefs team that last hosted a playoff game. He’s one of just two holdovers from the 2003 AFC West championship squad (the other is Casey Wiegmann).

If anyone can compare the playoff resumes between Kansas City’s last two division champions, it’s Waters.

“As good as that (2003) team was, this is a better team as a whole,” Waters said.

That’s an interesting take. It’s one that goes against the grain in the minds of many.

The 2003 Chiefs remained undefeated until mid-November, led the league in scoring with a franchise-best 484 points and topped the NFL with a 19 turnover differential. Nine Chiefs players received Pro Bowl recognition that year; three times the amount of Chiefs invites in 2010.

Of course, the 2003 Chiefs also went one-and-done when the playoffs rolled around.

“We all knew that we were a very good offensive football team,” Waters recalled of the ’03 squad. “We knew that we could score points, but we didn’t’ do the things we needed to do in order to make our defense be a factor. This team is far and ahead better than that football team in the fact that we have a better brand of football to play.”

As if we needed a reminder, the Chiefs failed to force a single punt in the 38-31 Divisional Round loss to Indianapolis. Kansas City also threw a pick, shanked a 31-yard chip shot field goal and fumbled inside the Indianapolis 25-yard line.

Just one defensive stop was all that separated the Chiefs from an appearance in the AFC Championship Game. Had they reached the conference title, Kansas City would have done so wearing lots of makeup.

“At that time we knew (the offense) was a dominant factor on that team and we couldn’t afford to (miss scoring opportunities) and still win games,” said Waters. “We had to be perfect.”

The Chiefs one-sided approach to constructing a football team ultimately led to its postseason demise. While the team could score with anyone, its defense offered the offense little room for error.

Band-aids helped shied the depth of Kansas City’s flaws throughout much of the 2003 season. While the defense languished as the league’s 30th ranked unit, they were surprisingly opportunistic and ended the regular season with the fourth-most takeaways (37) of any NFL team.

Leading the league in scoring and turnover differential is going to win a lot of games, but the Chiefs were playing in a manner that continually pressed winnings. Long-term success wasn’t sustainable. Eventually, a team would come along that exposed Kansas City’s weaknesses. What happened when the takeaways stopped flowing and an offensive miscue or two were in the deck of cards?

A Peyton Manning-led Colts team offered that nightmarish matchup and the odds caught up with the Chiefs at the most inopportune time.

“That was the type of program that we were running at the time,” said Waters. “We didn’t put an emphasis on the defense as far as the resources in the draft picks and those things at the time. If that’s the way your team is build then you have to kind of play to that and we didn’t’ do a good job of that.

“This team is different, we can win in a lot of fashions and one side can take control when the other hasn’t,” Waters continued. “That’s the complimentary football that Coach Haley is always talking about. I think that gives us a great start.”

While the 2010 Chiefs are far from flawless, they do have redeemable qualities that historically run consistent with successful playoff teams.

For starters, the Chiefs run the football well and also do an admirable enough job at stopping the run. They also limit turnovers and own a decisive home field advantage.

Chiefs Offensive Rushing Comparison

2003: 120.6 yards per game (15th)

2010: 164.2 yards per game (1st)

Chiefs Defensive Rushing Comparison

2003: 146.5 yards per game (30th)

2010: 110.3 yards per game (14th)

Chiefs Turnover Comparison

2003: 19 (1st)

2010: 9 (5th)

 “I think we do the things that good playoff teams do,” said Waters. “We run the ball, we stop the run and we don’t hurt ourselves. I think we’re getting better in the areas that you want to get better in, as far as explosive plays down the field, making turnovers and things of that manner.”

Whether or not the Chiefs current makeup is enough to lend a different result than the one we saw at Arrowhead seven years ago, who knows? The Chiefs have dropped six consecutive playoff games spanning over the last 17 seasons and none of those teams were identical.

But maybe this year’s squad has the makeup that bucks the streak? At the very least, a man who played on what is widely considered the Chiefs most talented team of the past decade prefers the build of this year’s Chiefs to that of the 2003 team.

“We’re a team who can run the ball, stop the run and do things in different spurts when we have to,” said Waters. “That team wasn’t able to do that. “

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