The Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins were set to play one of the coldest games in NFL history on Saturday night, yet that didn’t stop hundreds of fans from lining up outside the parking lots of Arrowhead Stadium more than 12 hours before kickoff.
The wide receiver will be playing in Kansas City for the first time since the Chiefs sent him to the Dolphins when the teams meet in a wild-card playoff game. And along with what figures to be plenty of boos — Hill has actively needled the Chiefs on social media since the trade — he will be greeted by wind chills expected to be well below zero at kickoff.
There have been only four postseason games played in subzero temperatures in NFL history, the most recent the 2007 NFC title game between the Giants and Packers, when it was minus-3 at kickoff. New York won 23-20 at Lambeau Field in a game perhaps best remembered for the images of Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s frozen face on the sideline.
“We’re competitors. You’ve seen me — I have that fire — and he’s the same way,” said Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who helped turn Hill into a star during his first six seasons in the league. “That’s what makes him so great. And we’re still friends in the offseason and all that, but when you’re on the field, you’re competing to win. That’s just how it is.”
Make no mistake: The Chiefs know how to win this time of year.
While the Dolphins are in the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 2001, the Chiefs will be playing their 15th straight home playoff game, not counting three Super Bowl appearances. It’s a streak that dates to Jan. 15, 2017, back when Hill was wrapping up his rookie season and Mahomes had yet to take the reigns of one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses.
“We play a lot of big games — games on short rest, night games — and having that experience will help,” Mahomes said. “A lot of guys on this team have done that, so the step up you see going into the playoffs, we make it a little smaller, because we’ve been in games like this. We can rely on our experience and be the best team we can be.”
The Chiefs wrapped up their eighth straight AFC West title with one game left in the regular season, so Mahomes and several of their biggest stars were able to sit out a win over the Chargers, and instead prepare for another playoff appearance.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are limping in both literally and figuratively.
A wave of late-season injuries has left coach Mike McDaniel with a patchwork defense and cobbled-together pass rush, while consecutive losses to Baltimore and Buffalo denied the Dolphins the chance to host a game this weekend.
And avoid the frigid weather gripping the Midwest. The game in Kansas City is expected to be among the coldest in NFL history, and Miami has lost its past 10 games when the temperature is 40 degrees or lower at kickoff.
“The team will be fired up to go and embrace the challenge,” McDaniel said, “and there’s many layers to why it’s a challenge. For us in-house, we all believe in each other and want to get a losing taste out of our mouths. That’s the only objective.”
The Dolphins experienced the same losing taste in November, when the Chiefs beat them 21-14 in Germany.
“Previous games, wins, losses — they mean nothing. That has absolutely no bearing on what’s going to happen,” Chiefs safety Justin Reid said. “The best team is going to come out on top.”
Miami has won all three of its playoff games against the Chiefs, two wild-card matchups and a divisional-round game in 1971 that remains the longest game in NFL history. But the Dolphins’ more recent playoff history has been bleak. They’ve not won a game since Dec. 30, 2000, when they beat the Colts in overtime, and they have only one playoff road win since 1972.
WHAT A RUSH
The Dolphins signed Melvin Ingram to the active roster and veterans Justin Houston and Bruce Irvin early in the week, hoping to fortify a pass rush decimated by injuries. Jaelan Phillips tore his Achilles tendon and Bradley Chubb is out with a torn ACL, while linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel, Jerome Baker and Cameron Goode have been placed on injured reserve.
“It’s really a special room to have this many good rushers on the same team at one time, so a lot of knowledge,” said Irvin, who was recently released from Detroit’s practice squad. “Hopefully we can be together longer than one week.”
The Dolphins are optimistic that wide receiver Jaylen Waddle will be back from a high ankle sprain and running back Raheem Mostert from an ankle injury after each missed the past two games. They will also have De’Von Achane available against Kansas City after the speedy running back missed their game in Germany with a knee injury.
THE FLIP SIDE
The Chiefs are as healthy as they have been all season. Left tackle Wanya Morris is their only injury of note after he went into the concussion protocol against the Chargers last week. But he was only playing because of a neck injury to Donovan Smith, who has practiced all week and is expected to play for the first time since Dec. 3 against Green Bay.
The Chiefs are usually the team putting up big points, but it was the Dolphins who led the NFL in offense for the first time in 30 years at more than 400 yards per game. Meanwhile, the Chiefs overcame inconsistency on offense — they led the NFL in dropped passes — by leaning on the league’s No. 2 ranked defense, which held 13 of 17 opponents to 20 points or fewer.
“They give us different looks. They present one-high deals, then go to two-high. They present two-high deals, then have fire zones,” Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said, “so we’ll just have to be ready and then with their (Cover) 0s that they have, too. So we’ve just got to be ready with that and yeah, here we go.”
WHERE TO WATCH
The Miami Dolphins will face the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday January 13th at 8:00 PM ET and will be streaming on Peacock, but if you live in the Miami area, you will be able to watch it live on NBC6.
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