And now the great, scary unknown: How will this Chiefs team respond after a loss?
NOV 22, 2013 2:26p ET
And it's the stinking unknowns.
At 4-6, the San Diego Chargers aren't so much a trap as they are a fork in the road. As in, which path does this Chiefs team take?
The one with the psycho pass rush and the psycho crowd and the air-tight special teams and Jamaal Charles, the one that led to 9-0? Or the one with the outside linebackers who seemed a half-step behind and the receivers who couldn't hang onto the ball and the pocket that leaked and the secondary gasping for air, the one that petered out in Denver last Sunday night?
Will the real Chiefs please stand up?
Or is the truth somewhere in the middle?
"We've got to learn from it," punter Dustin Colquitt said of his club's first loss, a 27-17 defeat at the hands of the Broncos during Week 11. "Jump back on that horse and start riding again."
And, right on cue, here comes San Diego, dropped smack into a frigid Arrowhead Stadium, all ready to be the best thing that ever happened to this season. Or, possibly, the worst.
That's the other stinking unknown. Do the Chargers affirm The Andy Gang's strengths? Or remind them of their flaws?
"I think guys understand we've still got everything ahead of us," quarterback Alex Smith said. "Everything we want is still ahead of us."
The dream still dangles, so close you can almost smell it. But each loss pushes the carrot farther and farther away.
And that rematch with Denver in your backyard on Dec. 1, the next stop on the AFC West Express, won't mean half as much if you don't take care of the business at hand first.
Another week, another test. That junket to the Rockies was about seeing how poised this bunch would be on a big, hostile stage (consensus: mixed) and whether the offense could circle the wagons quickly enough to make up a double-digit deficit on the road (consensus: failed).
This week is about how well you can take all that angst -- Peyton Manning, the missed opportunities, the fumbles, the penalties, the drops -- and let it go.
Less Woodyard, more Woodhead.
"As long as we use (last week) as a positive, it'll be helpful," Colquitt said. "If we hang our heads, then it won't be."
Know this: Whichever road you choose, Philip Rivers doesn't give a rat's patootie. The Chiefs are fighting for seeding. The Chargers are fighting for one of the last seats at the postseason table. The longer you pout about the dagger that 18 plunged into your back at Mile High, the more likely 17 and posse are to reach around and start twisting it.
"I don't take it as (a) trap game," safety Kendrick Lewis said. "We play every game, one game at a time. That's how we've been taking it."
A loss is a loss is a loss. It only defines you when it multiplies.
So what's it gonna be, Chiefs? The hammer? Or the nail? The windshield? Or the bug?
"You know, the first thing that we could've done (is) said, 'You know what? We don't want to practice Wednesday. We don't feel like it,'" Colquitt said.
"But we've got to watch film, practice, everything, and get ready to play a game. They're coming."
It's time to ride.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com.