Revenge is on the menu for the Kansas City Chiefs as they prepare to take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night at SoFi Stadium.
In Week 3, the Chargers bested the Chiefs in K.C., 30-24, on a late touchdown. The Chiefs offense turned the ball over four times, with Patrick Mahomes throwing two interceptions, and the defense allowed Justin Herbert to toss four touchdowns and put up points on all three fourth-quarter drives.
The rematch offers a chance for K.C. to prove it's a different team than the early-season edition.
"This is a big challenge for us," safety Tyrann Mathieu said, via Nate Taylor of The Athletic. "I think this game is probably the most important game we've played up to this point. It's going to take all of us to get it done. We're really just hoping we can go in there with some great energy and just take over the place."
The loss to L.A. came back when things were a bit of a mess for the Chiefs, with the offense turning the ball over ad nauseam and the defense a sieve. Now, winners of six straight, K.C. has recaptured the AFC West lead. A victory on Thursday would help complete the turnaround from their early-season struggles.
"We had (24) points with four turnovers," Mahomes said of the Week 3 bout. "We had a chance, especially late, to go down there, score points and win it. We kept just turning the ball over. We understand that we have another chance at it. It's a big game."
The Chiefs' stingy defense has spearheaded the turnaround but could be playing without star defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Since Jones has returned to the interior full-time after an early-season experiment on the edge, the K.C. defense has taken off. His potential absence would be massive for Kansas City.
"The only guy you can really compare him to is Aaron Donald when you talk about inside dominance," Mathieu said of Jones. "It's going to be a big challenge for us to replace him. But we're healthier. Up front, we're able to rotate those guys in and out. All those things will work out for us Thursday."
The Chiefs are coming off a shellacking of the Las Vegas Raiders, but facing Herbert and the Chargers on a short week on the road and in prime time is a different beast.
"It'll say a lot about us if we're able to win this game, our commitment to each other," Mathieu said. "How bad do we want it? Is nine wins enough for us? I think it's still a lot out there that we can own. The team feels that. We just want to be better than we were the last time around."
A Chiefs victory would allow breathing room in the division as they chase their sixth straight AFC West title. A Chargers win would give L.A. the season-sweep of K.C. and a potential tiebreaker down the stretch, and move them into the top seed in the division.
Thursday is a massive game with massive implications on a massive stage with two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL at center stage. You couldn't ask for much more for a mid-December Thursday night football game.