The Kansas City Chiefs' defense went to Mexico City, and in the thin air at Estadio Azteca suffocated the Los Angeles Chargers, 24-17.
"They won the game for us," star quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of his defensive teammates, via The Athletic's Nate Taylor.
For a beleaguered group, that had been mashed in recent weeks -- giving up 29.7 points per game (T-27th in NFL), with 3.7 touchdowns per game, a 115.3 passer rating and just one takeaway from Weeks 8-10 -- it felt good to make game-changing play after game-changing play.
"As funny as it sounds," pass rusher Frank Clark said with a smile. "The game has been put in the defense's hands before."
Turnovers were the name of the game, as the Chiefs intercepted Philip Rivers four times, including the game-sealing INT by safety Daniel Sorensen in the end zone. A blatant drop of a pick by Tyrann Mathieu late could have made it five INTs.
Monday night, Clark reminded the world what kind of influence he can have off the edge, and why K.C. made the move in the offseason to trade for and give him a big contract. Clark pummeled fill-in tackle Trey Pipkins down after down after down, living in Rivers' lap. The edge rusher compiled a sack, three QB hits, five tackles -- one for a loss -- a pass defended (doinked off his helmet) and a forced fumble.
"We showed an attitude," Clark said. "We're trying to build this identity. I want (us) to be selfish and make every play that comes to us. Defend your gap and make the play. If you keep on developing that attitude, you're going to develop into a winner."
On a night Mahomes was stymied -- held to 182 passing yards with 1 TD and 1 INT -- and when the Chiefs lacked explosive plays sans injured playmakers Tyreek Hill and Damien Williams, the K.C. defense provided the needed spark.
Perhaps the narrative will be more about the Chargers bungling the W, per usual. After all, L.A. still generated 483 yards of offense, and oddly ran the ball just 19 times on 73 plays. But it was K.C.'s defense who all game long was in position to make big plays and take advantage of Rivers' miscues.
After allowing a season-high 35 points in a loss to Tennessee last week, Sorensen's big INT against Austin Ekeler in the end zone to seal the win has the Chiefs' defense believing they can build on Monday's performance.
"We knew he was a threat," Sorensen said of Ekeler. "We're going to see that again. This isn't the last time we're going to see a good running back come out of the backfield that can catch. It's good for our defense. You can look back on this game and build confidence."
With a pivotal division tilt after next week's bye against the Oakland Raiders, who are threatening the Chiefs' AFC West supremacy, followed by a matchup at New England in Week 14, K.C. will need its defense to step up large once again down the stretch until the offense recaptures its groove.