Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw three touchdown passes, Dexter McCluster returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown, and the defense continued its season-long excellence as the Chiefs beat the winless New York Giants, 31-7, on a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.
The win completes an NFC East trifecta for KC, who have beaten Dallas, Philadelphia and now the Giants in three consecutive weeks. The hard-fought win also makes the Chiefs only the second team in NFL history to win its first four games of the year the season after winning two or fewer games. The Giants fell to 0-4 and now try to deal with the fact that only one team in NFL history has ever come back from an 0-4 start to make the playoffs.
Despite the final score, the Chiefs only held a 10-7 lead in the third quarter because both defenses came to play. The Chiefs bottled up New York QB Eli Manning and shut down the Giants running game. Tamba Hali sacked Manning once and Dunta Robinson recovered a fumble. Robinson’s fumble recovery took a bit of the sting out of the Giants only good play of the half on offense, when he was burned badly by Manning and Victor Cruz on a 69-yard touchdown pass. The Giants totaled 182 yards of offense in the first half, with a lot of it coming on that one play.
The much-maligned Giants defense, meanwhile, came in with a plan to stop Jamaal Charles from running the ball and putting the game squarely on the shoulders and arm of Smith. It was Smith’s legs, however, that kept the chains moving for the Chiefs on third down and his arm found third-string tight end, Sean McGrath in the end zone to give the Chiefs a short-lived lead just before Cruz’ touchdown catch.
A rare thing happened to the Chiefs in the second quarter when Smith and center Rodney Hudson had a miscommunication on a shotgun snap and when Giants linebacker Spenser Paysinger fell on the ball, it was the Chiefs first turnover of the season. On the other hand, in what unfortunately is NOT a rare thing for Kansas City this year, punter Dustin Colquitt’s first punt of the game was partially blocked, making it the third miscue on punt blocking in the first four games. Luckily for the special teams, the Chiefs defense forced the Giants to punt, so no damage was done.
The key moment of the game came towards the end of a sloppily-played third quarter that saw Smith throw his first two interceptions of the year – and Manning throwing his 10th – when it appeared as though the Giants might grab momentum for the first time all day.
Manning hit Cruz for an apparent first down on a 3rd-and-17 pass, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid challenged the spot of the ball. On review, the referee agreed with Reid that the ball had been misplaced, and so instead of converting a crucial third-and-long play, the Giants punted the ball on fourth down. That was where McCluster channeled the spirit of former Chief kick returning legend, Dante Hall, and he juked and weaved his way through Giants defenders and blew into the end zone with an 89-yard punt return touchdown. That put the Chiefs up 17-7 and, for all intents and purposes with the way the defense was playing, the game was over.
But if there was any doubt, the Chiefs offense fell into their modus operandi for the year with the offense becoming an offensive juggernaut that puts its foot on the throat of their opponents to win the game. The Chiefs took over on offense on the first play of the fourth quarter and proceeded to run off a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ran more than 9 minutes off the clock. Smith hit Charles with a 2-yard touchdown pass, putting the Chiefs up 24-7.
Then, just like the defense did last week against Philly, they got Manning to fumble on a third-and-five play and recovered the ball deep in Giants territory. Three plays later, Smith his Dwayne Bowe for a 34-yard touchdown pass. The Chiefs went up 31-7 and were three minutes away from a 4-0 start.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses for Kansas City on the injury front. The crowd held its breath in the first quarter after the Giants punt block when punter Dustin Colquitt went to the sidelines with an apparent knee injury. He returned to the game and kicked well afterwards. Also, first round pick Eric Fisher suffered “concussion-like symptoms” and sat out most of the game. His availability for next week is still undetermined.
The Chiefs take to the road next Sunday to play the Tennessee Titans, who pounded the New York Jets 38-13 on Sunday to raise their record to 3-1. However, Titans starting QB Jake Locker was carted off the field in the second half with a hip injury so his status is also uncertain.
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