Linebacker Reggie Ragland learned this week his Kansas City Chiefs last won a home playoff game 24 years ago, adding just a bit more motivation ahead of the team’s Wild Card showdown Saturday against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium.
“It means we’ve got to go out there and get it done,” Ragland said.
Ragland’s NFL career may only encompass 12 games but postseason football is nothing new to the hard-hitting defender.
“It’s a new season, it doesn’t matter what your record,” Ragland said. “You’re in and it’s all about going out there and just playing football. But I’m used to this though. Being with coach (Nick) Saban at Alabama, every year’s a big game for us or something. I’m used to this.”
Ragland’s Crimson Tide won the national championship his senior year, knocking off Michigan State in the semifinals and Clemson in the championship game. He totaled 12 tackles in those games.
While fans still lament last season’s playoff disappointment against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ragland said his teammates stay focused on the present.
“I don’t really think we’re worried about what happened last year to be honest with you,” Ragland said. “It’s all about going forward and we got to live in the moment. We can’t go back to last year, we’ve just got to play football right now.”
Ragland;s emergence in the linebacking corps coincided with a renaissance in the Kansas City defense. Ragland missed four of the team’s first 9 games and played more than 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps just twice in the first nine games.
But since emerging as a more frequent contributor on the defense starting in Week 11, Kansas City’s defense has shown a marked turnover around. The team allowed an average of 23.1 points per game through the first nine games, yielding 131.1 yards per game on the ground.
Since Ragland assumed a more permanent role in the team’s base defense, the Chiefs have allowed just 18.7 points per game and 101.4 rushing yards per game.
Linebacker Tamba Hali called Ragland’s preseason acquisition from Buffalo for a fourth-round pick in 2019 a “huge steal.”
“We got a player that loves to play the game and he’s physical,” Hali said. “I’ve been here some time and to have him in our locker room, that’s huge. And he’s played among other top players from his class, he’s played championship games so he understands.”
Ragland’s progression shows a player growing more comfortable in his role and better understanding his place in the team’s defense.
“I’m just trying to keep getting better week in and week out,” Ragland said. “That’s my main focus, to make sure I get the guys up front lined up. Because if I can get them lined up, we’ve got a good shot every play at stopping them.
Ragland expects a physical challenge on Saturday from the Titans as well as the playing conditions. The current forecast calls temperatures in the low to mid 30s much of the game.
“The offensive line’s very physical and tough and they’re smart, so we’ve got to do a good job of staying in our gaps and being physical,” Ragland said. “You got to want to stop the run with it being cold and all the elements and all that stuff.”
Despite his championship experience at the college level, though, Ragland can’t wait to hit the field in the playoffs on Saturday.
“I love it. As a player, you want to be in the big game, the big moment, all of that,” Ragland said. “We’ve got to take it one step at a time. We can’t worry about going forward, we’ve to worry about what’s going on right now and just playing ball.”