The NFL season is a battle of attrition.
There are ups, downs, ebbs, and flows to every season for every team—regardless of the success of that team that year.
The key to finding success through this treacherous journey is the ability to always bring things back to center, which for the Kansas City Chiefs right now, might be a challenge for many.
The facts are that the Chiefs still currently lead the AFC West by a game, and while the team has dropped four of the last five games, they have still proven at their best to be able to play with anyone.
And while the consistency hasn't been there and the struggles are magnified because of the key wins they had earlier in the year over the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots—two of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl—the ability to beat the best is something they've already proven capable of, even if that's hard to remember right now for some.
Perhaps perceptions might be different if the Chiefs had lost to the Patriots and Eagles, but won their most-recent games over the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills.
But in the weekly battle of attrition, it doesn't really matter. The current situation would be the same.
The Chiefs are 6-5 with five regular-season games remaining, and they don't need any outside help to reach the playoffs or defend their division title—something they've never done in 58 seasons of existence with eight division titles to their name (1966, 1971, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2003, 2010, 2016).
On Sunday afternoon, the Chiefs dropped their fifth game in six tries by a score of 16-10 to the Buffalo Bills.
It was the fourth game this year in which the Chiefs lost by just a single possession, and for the second week in a row, they even had a chance again late with a final drive with just two minutes remaining and trailing by six points.
The drive, which began at the Chiefs' 14-yard line, got as far as the Bills' 36-yard line but ended with an Alex Smith pass being intercepted by Bills' standout rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White, who took it 63 yards the other way. And with no timeouts remaining, the interception essentially sealed the win for the Bills.
After the game, a few of the Chiefs' veterans spoke about how to get things turned around.
"You don't point fingers," Chiefs' veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson explained. "I have been in this league long enough and been in situations worse than this. You don't point fingers. You can strike a better blow if you stop pointing fingers and curl them up, get tight (like a fist). That's the main thing right now. You've got to get tight. We've got good character guys on this team.
"To tell you that we are going to bounce the right way, I can't honestly say that right now. We just have to show it by action. We have a lot of self-checking and a lot of looking in the mirror to see what we can do better individually in order to get better."
The "don't talk about it, be about it" mantra is something this group has lived by in the past, and something that's obviously going to be a focus moving forward.
For the second week in a row, the Chiefs' defense held their opponent to less than 17 points. They also held one of the league's top running backs, LeSean McCoy, to just 49 yards on 22 carries—an average of just 2.2 yards per carry—the third-lowest of his career in games that he's had at least 15 carries. Just a few weeks ago, the Chiefs' rush defense was an area of concern and the team worked their way through that problem—performing well for the third-straight week.
The Chiefs haven't allowed a starting running back to average better than 3.7 yards per carry over the last three weeks, and hopefully that ability to improve what they're struggling with transfers over to the other side of the ball.
The Chiefs' rushing attack couldn't get things going on Sunday as rookie running back Kareem Hunt finished with 17 yards on 11 carries, which marks the fourth-straight game he hasn't eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage after beginning the season with an NFL record seven-straight games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage.
"Every game is not a perfect game, so you're going to go through some hard times," Chiefs' coach Andy Reid added. "You stick together, you work hard and you get through it. Then you're real with your game. We're all real with our game and then good things will happen."
The Chiefs are no strangers to winning streaks, so it's not out of the question that the Chiefs could turn things around and string a few wins together.
Under Reid, the Chiefs have had a five-game winning streak in each of his five seasons at the helm.
"I think for all of us, we all lean on each other," quarterback Alex Smith said. "It's a team game, a unit, especially on offense it takes all 11 guys all doing it. Certainly not getting it done (right now). Didn't get it done [on Sunday] and it's frustrating."
"It's tough, man, whenever you lose," Johnson added. "Regardless of what the score is, it's tough. This ball has been rolling downhill and the more losses you get, the harder that ball is to stop rolling in the wrong direction."
But despite the recent struggles and how they ultimately got to this point, the Chiefs still control their path as they lead the division with five left to play.
"We have been leading the division every week," Johnson said. "That's not an excuse to relax. The sense of urgency was here last week. It's here again. It is going to be here for the rest of the year. We have to figure out how to get it done."
For Johnson and the Chiefs, that starts again this week as they prepare for the New York Jets.
"This is one of those games where you need to get it," Johnson noted. "We need to get one win. We need to get a win. However, we can get it, we need to get it because it doesn't look good right now."