KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In the aftermath of last Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs were less interested in talking about what they accomplished, defeating the rival Oakland Raiders to all but clinch the AFC West, than the task immediately ahead of them.
Having the New England Patriots next on the schedule can have that effect on a team, particularly one that believes it can reach the Super Bowl.
"We have to beat them," Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins said of the Patriots. "It's something we have to do. The path that we want to go on, the things we want to achieve this year, this is a have-to win."
Beating the Patriots is about conquering the hill the Chiefs died on last year, when New England came to Arrowhead Stadium for the AFC Championship Game and was the team that advanced to the Super Bowl after scoring a touchdown on the only possession of overtime.
The Patriots also beat the Chiefs in a similar manner during the regular season last year, kicking a field goal on the last play to win a wild, high-scoring game in Week 6.
The Chiefs want this game.
Legacies have been built, for better or worse, on how players and coaches have fared against the Patriots. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a .500 career record as a starter overall but is considered a Hall of Fame candidate because his team went 2-0 against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, on the other hand, is 0-3 against the Patriots in the playoffs and his Hall of Fame bust is less than guaranteed.
Even Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been defined, in part, by his inability to beat the Patriots in the postseason. Reid is 0-3 against coach Bill Belichick and New England, including a loss with the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, one in the divisional round of the 2015 season and then last year's AFC title game.
"If you're ever able to able to defeat a team that is run by Bill Belichick and has a quarterback like Tom Brady, you have to feel pretty good about that," said Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was the Giants' defensive coordinator when they beat the 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. "But easier said than done. They're the elite. All of us, if we want to get to where we want to go, you have to find a way to do some good things against a team like this."
The Chiefs have built their team over the years with an eye toward beating the Patriots. They've drafted and developed players like quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce in an attempt to have a high-powered offense capable of keeping pace with Brady, but also versatile enough to overcome the differing defensive looks the Patriots present from week-to-week.
During the offseason, the Chiefs renovated a defense that allowed 80 points to the Patriots in the two games last season by bringing in Spagnuolo and a new defensive staff and adding players like end Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
They'll find out soon whether they succeeded.
"I understand what the Patriots [represent]," Mathieu said. "They represent consistency, excellence. They've always been the team to beat, and they always play their best when it really matters.
"It will say a lot about where we are as a team. This is a good test for us going forward. They present a lot of different things. They're a game plan team. They're going to try to target what they feel are the weaknesses in our players. ... If we can succeed against a team like this, a good team, a quality team, a championship team, then you realize you can do it against anybody."
Mahomes, 24, will outlast the New England dynasty. He will also outlast the 42-year-old Brady, though Mahomes said this week he didn't think this would be his final game against Brady, who is in the final season of his Patriots contract.
"I've known for a while that it's not going be the last year any time soon," Mahomes said. "I mean, he's still playing at a high level. Unless he just doesn't want to play, which I don't see, I expect to see him for at least a couple more years. Whenever you play a guy like this, who's won all these championships, you want to go out there and give your best effort, obviously, and you want to try to find a way to win."
Indeed, maybe the Mahomes-Brady and Chiefs-Patriots rivalries are just getting started. Perhaps the quarterbacks and teams will meet again in this season's playoffs and next year and beyond.
It's just as likely this is the last time the combatants as we know them will face one another. So Mahomes is risking an 0-3 career record against Brady, and the Chiefs are risking being known as the team that couldn't beat the Patriots when it counted the most.
"As far as it looks, you're going to have to go there to win at some point," Mahomes said. "It's kind of been a thing where we came close last year. When Alex [Smith] was here, we did get to go there and get the win [in 2017]. So the guys on the team know how to. It's about trying to find the best way to do it."