It was 50 days ago that the Kansas City Chiefs fell victim to a last-minute rally against the Tennessee Titans, dropping their fourth game of the season. The contest demonstrated the razor-thin margin between winning and losing in the NFL, and ever since, the Chiefs have exclusively enjoyed the former.
Kansas City has rattled off five-straight wins since falling to Tennessee as all three phases have seemingly come together at the perfect time, from the offense averaging 27.2 points-per-game to the defense holding the opposition to a league-best four touchdowns while yielding just 9.6 points-per-game in that span.
This streak all began against the Los Angeles Chargers in Mexico City - an instant classic that steadied the course following the loss to Tennessee a week prior – and with the regular season coming to a close, the Chiefs and Chargers are set to clash once again at Arrowhead on Sunday afternoon.
It's been a difficult season for the Chargers with 10 losses – nine of which coming by a touchdown or less - only a year after earning a trip to the playoffs. The Chiefs, meanwhile, have already secured a fifth-straight postseason berth but still have plenty to play for on Sunday with playoff seeding up in the air.
Kansas City currently owns the No. 3 seed but could end up in either the No. 2 or 4 position depending on both Sunday's matchup with Los Angeles and other games around the league, so there is still plenty on the line as these two old division rivals go head-to-head to wrap up the regular-season.
The Chiefs have won 11 of the last 12 meetings between these two teams, picking off Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers 20 times in the process. The 38-year-old Rivers has struggled at times this season but remains the ultimate competitor, making Sunday's matchup more than a standard game between two teams headed in different directions on the year.
"We always know that he is prepared to the max to go against you," said Head Coach Andy Reid. "He has covered all of the bases. He has the desire behind there - the competitiveness behind it. You have to make sure that you do your homework when you get ready for them. He's been there for a long time - when you think of the Chargers, whether San Diego or L.A., you think of him. He's a great player."
Rivers has thrown for 4,334 yards and 21 touchdowns to 18 picks on the campaign, finding wide receiver Keenan Allen for a team-leading 95 grabs and 1,117 yards. Tailback Austin Ekeler and wide receiver Mike Williams have also been productive for Los Angeles, with each tallying more than 900 yards through the air. Additionally, tight end Hunter Henry ranks fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (550) among tight ends since returning from injury in Week 6.
Tailback Melvin Gordon is also in the mix offensively, and while the two-time Pro Bowler's numbers haven't quite mirrored his production from year's past, he's still one of the more dynamic players in all of football.
Simply put, this team has some playmakers capable of playing spoiler on Sunday, but if the last five games are any indication, Kansas City's defense is up for the challenge.
No team has played better defense over the last month than the Chiefs, who have held each of their last five opponents to 17 points or less. There were a lot of new faces on the defensive side of things headed into this year, but as the homestretch of the season came into focus, Kansas City's defense began to fire on all cylinders.
"I think it's about hitting your stride at the right time. I feel like we're coming together at a good time and playing some good football," said defensive end Frank Clark. "Before the year started, I said that we were going to be one of the best defenses in the league at some point. We went through the trials and tribulations, and we're one of the best defenses in the league right now, so we just want to continue to prove that."
It's certainly made a difference that isn't lost on the Chiefs' offense.
"I've seen them every single day going through these extra walk throughs, meeting with each other, meeting with the coaches and doing whatever they need to do in order to play like they have been playing of late," said quarterback Patrick Mahomes. "With me on the offense, we understand that if we can go out there and put up some points, then they're going to hold the lead for us and we're going to find a way to get a win."
The Chargers, meanwhile, can play some defense, too.
Los Angeles yields just 20.9 points-per-game on the season and features one of the top pass-rushing tandems in the NFL with defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming off the edge. All-Pro safety Derwin James also returned to action earlier this month, bolstering the Chargers' secondary.
Unlike the matchup earlier this season, however, the Chiefs' offense is set to feature wide receiver Tyreek Hill amongst the rest of Kansas City's pass-catchers. Hill left the previous contest against Los Angeles early in the game and didn't return, but now healthy, the electric Hill will look to maintain his usual stellar play versus the Bolts, which includes five touchdowns in just seven-career games.
Elsewhere on offense, tight end Travis Kelce has a shot at some history on Sunday. With just six receptions, Kelce will tally his second-straight 100-catch campaign and become the first tight end in NFL history to record multiple triple-digit catch seasons.
Both players will likely be relied upon against Los Angeles as the Chiefs look to notch consecutive 12-win seasons for the first time in franchise history, but while the records and stats are exciting, this team has its sights set on one goal moving forward.
"We're still building and I think that's the biggest thing. I know we're at the end of the season, but I feel like every single week you can see this team getting better, and we want to [keep] that momentum of going and playing our best football going into the playoffs," Mahomes said. "We understand the Chargers are a really good football team and we know it's going to be a great challenge, so we're going into it with the mindset that we've had the past few weeks of playing our best football."
Catch the Chiefs and Chargers on CBS at noon on Sunday.