The Los Angeles Chargers tangle with the New England Patriots on Sunday, with the Los Angeles crew showing new life.
After dropping their first four games, the Chargers (3-4) have reeled off three straight wins -- two against AFC West foes -- to climb back in the divisional race.
Antonio Gates has been here, and there, before. The Chargers' veteran tight end is known for keeping an even keel, regardless if things are going smoothly or roughly.
"We try to encourage the guys and talk to them about the peaks and valleys of the season," said Gates, a 14-year pro. "You got your highs and lows. And if you continue to focus on the past, you can never reach your potential. That's why we preach one game at a time, one week at a time."
Preaching what to do is one thing. Putting those words into action are another thing, but something the Chargers have done in road wins against the Giants and Raiders, and at home versus the Broncos.
Despite the flip, Gates said there's not much of a switch from the squad that squandered its opening four games.
"We started out 0-4, and we're still the same team," Gates said. "We're still the same guys making the same plays. We just have to believe in that and trust that process, which we have. To me, we're the same team we were when we started 0-0."
But when the Chargers' record included two bagels, they weren't confident what the future would bring. Their outlook is a little clearer, but so is the challenge awaiting: beating the Patriots in New England.
Head coach Anthony Lynn is well aware what a tall task that is. As a veteran coaching in the AFC East while serving with the Bills and Jets, he's cognizant of how good the Patriots can be.
"The team is well-coached," Lynn said. "That team is led by Tom Brady. So you are going to have to go through that team because it is not going to give you anything. They proved that to the world in the Super Bowl when down 28-3 and they came back and won it."
Lynn stressed the Chargers have to take the game to the Patriots. If they anticipate New England to self-destruct, they are thinking about the wrong team.
"You have to take the fight to them because they are not going to make plays to beat themselves," Lynn said. "They are very disciplined, so we are going to have to execute better. We are going to have to bring our 'A' game to beat this team, there is no doubt about it."
The Chargers had plenty of doubters after the first month of the season. But after winning once, they won twice more. But they know earning No. 4 in their potential winning streak, against the Patriots, will be the toughest get of them all.