The Giants might’ve played their best game to date this season, and it still wasn’t enough as they lost to the Chiefs, 31-7.
The contest started out nicely for the Giants (0-4), specifically on defense, as they managed to contain the Chiefs’ offense. Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles was held in check for most of the game — save for a late drive when the game was about over — as he had 65 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Alex Smith had his share of fits against the Giants’ defense, as he threw two interceptions, but he ultimately made enough plays to stave off Big Blue. Smith’s 34-yard touchdown connection with Dwayne Bowe was the icing on the cake, but for the most part, the Giants defense played well enough to win. The former Niners quarterback finished 24-of-41 for 288 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the Giants offense and special teams, however, which must share the blame. Eli Manning again struggled and added to his league-leading turnover tally as he went just 18-of-37 for 217 yards and a touchdown, including an interception. The special teams unit also had an awful afternoon, as they accounted for a 16-point swing, due to penalties, a missed field goal, a crucial penalty and a touchdown allowed.
The running game was spotty at best. David Wilson led the team with 55 yards on 13 carries. The receivers — outside of Victor Cruz (10 catches for a game-high 164 yards and a touchdown) — failed to show, which left Manning vulnerable and prone to mistakes while making the offense predictable.
About the only bright spots for the Giants were the way they competed and hung in there for three and a half quarters, particularly early, when Manning responded nicely to the Chiefs’ 98-yard scoring drive with a two-play, 74-yard scoring drive, when he connected with Cruz for a 69-yarder.
Linebacker Spencer Paysinger recovered a muffed shotgun snap and cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Antrel Rolle also added interceptions when the contest was still in doubt, but ultimately the Giants just didn’t have enough firepower and depth to keep up with the Chiefs (4-0).
What we learned ...
1. Not so special
The Giants’ special teams were arguably the biggest culprit in the loss, as they cost the team 10 points. Kicker Josh Brown’s missed 44-yard field goal with seconds remaining in the first half prevented Big Blue from heading into the locker room with a 10-10 tie. Brown’s hooked attempted came on the heels of Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop nailing a 51-yarder at the two-minute warning for the early 10-7 lead. The Giants special teams compounded things when punter Steve Weatherford apparently outkicked his coverage as it led to a dazzling 89-yard punt return for a touchdown by Dexter McCluster with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter. Succop later attempted a 53-yarder — and made it — but an illegal procedure by the Giants’ line negated the penalty, extended the drive, and resulted in Smith finding Charles for a two-yard touchdown, while also eating up valuable minutes on the clock. The penalty helped furnish a 14-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 9:17.
2. Turnovers, anyone?
Big Blue’s rash of turnovers continued to spread with each passing week, as Manning contributed with two. The first came on a strip sack as the Chiefs executed a nice stunt. Teaneck, N.J.-native Tamba Hali earned his second sack of the season when he corralled Manning and also forced a fumble. The loose ball was recovered at the 35-yard line by defensive back Dunta Robinson. Manning’s second turnover was an inexplicable interception to no one in particular as there wasn’t a Giants’ receiver within a 10-yard radius. The offense now has 16 giveaways.
The Giants had a history of playing well against teams led by Smith, but on this Sunday afternoon, they failed to capitalize on numerous errors. Smith was picked off twice, yet the Giants couldn’t make Kansas City pay for any of them. New York also failed to convert on third downs — manageable or not — as they went 1-of-14. The Chiefs also started their third-string tight end, Sean McGrath, but even that didn’t help, as McGrath did what every tight end has done to the Giants so far this season — succeed. McGrath had team highs in catches (five) and yards (64), including his first career touchdown reception. And if that wasn’t bad enough, not even the fact that Charles was held in check mattered, as Big Blue couldn’t handle a Chiefs offense that was one-dimensional for most of the game.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.