Haley hoping Chiefs will emulate 2008 Cardinals

Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel (left) and head coach Todd Haley watch the video screen during the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel (left) and head coach Todd Haley watch the video screen during the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Photo by The Associated Press.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The signs are all there if Todd Haley decides to cross his fingers and hope history is repeating itself.

In many ways, his Kansas City Chiefs seem to be playing out the same underdog scenario that turned the 2008 Arizona Cardinals into unlikely Super Bowl entrants.

With Haley serving as offensive coordinator, the ’08 Cardinals finished 9-7 and then reeled off three straight playoff upsets. They got to the Super Bowl in Ken Whisenhunt’s second season as head coach.

Haley, in his second season, surprised everyone by guiding the Chiefs to the AFC West title. They’ll host Baltimore on Sunday in the first playoff game in Arrowhead Stadium since 2003.

Like the 2008 Cardinals, the Chiefs have no recent playoff success to draw from. And like the Cardinals of that year, they’re going into the postseason with fresh memories of a potentially confidence-shattering loss.

Haley’s staff even includes a righthand man who was with him in Arizona, assistant head coach Mo Carthon.

By the end of the week, the Chiefs will likely all be familiar with the story of the ’08 Cardinals.

“There are probably some similarities,” Haley said Monday. “This is a team that hasn’t been in this situation for a while. Hasn’t won a bunch of postseason games in a while, or any. And we were in that situation (in Arizona) with a team that didn’t have postseason experience as a team, but yet had some key guys that were able to get that message out there and help a lot of guys.”

As bad as they’ve been in recent decades, the Chiefs (10-6) can still point to more postseason history than the 2008 Cardinals of Haley and Whisenhunt. The three playoff games Arizona won getting to the Super Bowl that season were one more than the Arizona franchise had won in decades.

But the Chiefs (10-6) have posted only three postseason victories since capturing the 1970 Super Bowl, and none since the 1993 season.

The ’08 Cardinals were quarterbacked by Kurt Warner, who’d won the Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams. The Chiefs are led by Matt Cassel, who at least knows what success looks like after backing up Tom Brady for four years in New England.

But the Chiefs also have linebacker Mike Vrabel, a three-time Super Bowl winner with New England, and coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, who also wear Patriots Super Bowl rings.

“We’ve got 21 guys or so ... players that have played in postseason games and have great, great experience to pass along,” Haley said. “Our coaching staff has obviously got great experience in the postseason. Those are the things you need to go forward, be ready for this week.

“We showed in Arizona if you win one game, you’ve got a chance to do anything.”

Perhaps most relevant to what the Chiefs face was the 47-7 beating New England laid on the ’08 Cardinals in their next-to-last regular-season game. The Cardinals got right back on track and did not lose again until the Steelers nosed them out in the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs will have to quickly erase the memory of the Raiders outplaying them Sunday in just about every phase of the game, stopping their league-leading running attack, getting seven quarterback sacks, intercepting Cassel twice. It was the Chiefs’ worst performance and only loss all year at home.

“History has proven it doesn’t matter whether you’ve won nine games as we did in Arizona and ended up being 2 minutes away from a Super Bowl title, or New England, winning 17 games and then losing (in the Super Bowl), the same as we did,” Haley said. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It’s what you’re going to do now.”

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