Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward debunked part of theory that his team and the Texans, opponents in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game Sunday, have changed in the three months since their first meeting.
"They're the same team," Ward said. "Teams don't change. They'll do what they do well."
Ward meant it as a compliment, and it's not difficult for the Texans to get the Chiefs' attention after Houston left Arrowhead Stadium with a 31-24 triumph in Week 6.
The game ended with the Texans in victory formation after overcoming a two-touchdown deficit and racking up 472 total yards, the most against a Chiefs defense this season.
Yes, the Chiefs were without five players who likely will start on Sunday, including Pro Bowl lineman Chris Jones and linebacker Anthony Hitchens, the team's tackles leader. And Kansas City is a 9 1/2 point favorite.
But the Texans left quite an impression during their October visit. Deshaun Watson passed for 280 yards, rushed for two touchdowns and wasn't sacked for only the second time all season.
Carlos Hyde, cut by the Chiefs in the preseason, rumbled for 116 rushing yards. DeAndre Hopkins caught nine passes, Duke Johnson had a touchdown reception, and the Texans defense turned in the game's biggest play.
Just after Chiefs rookie safety Juan Thornhill recorded his first interception, in the end zone with 32 seconds remaining in the first half, the Chiefs looked for a final score before the half. Instead, Patrick Mahomes was sacked by Charles Omenihu and fumbled. One snap later, Watson took it in to give Houston a momentum-shifting lead.
But this is an improved Chiefs defense. It didn't seem so early on. After the Texans' game, when the Chiefs surrendered 192 rushing yards, the Chiefs defense ranked 27th overall and 30th against the run. Although the defensive staff, starting with coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, was new and stars such as Justin Houston and Eric Berry were replaced with Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu, the status quo remained.
The past two months have changed the narrative. Since Week 11, the Chiefs have surrendered 11.5 points and 95 rushing yards per game.
"We were a new defense," cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. "Everybody was trying to get together. We had different players, plugging in new players. We finally got a grasp on our lineup and were able to build our identity."
The Chiefs know the task at hand. It appears wide receiver Will Fuller V will be back after missing the playoff victory over the Buffalo Bills because of an injury. He would rejoin a unit with Hopkins and Kenny Stills.
"Fuller stretches the field," Breeland said. "You can't just sit and double DeAndre. It opens up the run game as well."
Keeping Watson in check is the most difficult assignment. His 20-yard touchdown run got the Texans on the board against the Bills last week, and his remarkable escape of a sack in overtime, when it appeared Watson was sandwiched between a pair of defenders, led to a long completion that set up the game-winning field goal.
"That's a big challenge, a quarterback that is mobile and makes plays with his feet," Breeland said. "(Watson) can manage a game, he kept it close. Then he put everything on his back in the fourth quarter and became superman. We have to be his kryptonite."