This time, the Chiefs' defense has made the climb forward, becoming a unit to be reckoned with as the winter chill spreads across the U.S.
"The defense, I think, is one of the big stories of the season," Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said after Sunday's AFC West-clinching win in New England. "At the beginning of the year, we knew it was going to take a fair amount of the season for that group to really jell. They've been a big factor in the last three victories, starting in Mexico."
Once again it was Steve Spagnuolo's crew that made the biggest plays.
"We don't need the offense to win games for us," Jones said after the win, via The Athletic. "Last year, we kind of lingered toward the offense scoring a lot of points to win games. We don't need that. We as a defense can stand up to any team in this league. That's how it's supposed to be."
For comparison, K.C. allowed 40.0 points per game, 512.0 total yards per game in two tilts versus New England in 2018 (including playoffs). Sunday, it allowed 16 points and 278 total yards.
"We gave up 16 points on the road," Jones said. "I feel like we can get better."
Chiefs' defense last two seasons:
2018: 26.3 points per game allowed; 405.5 yards per game; 237.4 passing YPG; 41.5 3rd down percent allowed.
2019:21.6 points per game allowed; 364.8 yards per game; 227.2 passing YPG; 35.4 3rd down percent allowed.
With Mahomes and the offense working out the kinks since his return from injury, it's been the defense that's propelled the Chiefs to the division title.
The key to the late season surge from the Chiefs' defense has been getting most of its key pieces healthy. Both Jones and Clark have missed games due to injury. When they're on the field together, the Chiefs defensive front is a load for any offensive line. The secondary, too, has jelled as the season has gone on, and what was a major weakness last season, has become a stabilizing force.
The Patriots only generated two gains of 20-plus yards, both came on trick plays -- a flea-flicker TD on the first drive, and a halfback pass on the final drive.