Chiefs Overcome Offensive Mistakes And Go 4-0

From Arrowhead Stadium

It was one of those plays that happen a dozen times in a football game. The guy with the ball gets tackled and when the official places the ball afterwards it doesn’t quite match the correct spot.

Generally those moments quickly fade with the next snap and are forgotten in a game with more significant action.

But on Sunday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid decided he did not just want to let one of those moments pass. He wanted a second look, and his successful replay challenge on the placement of a completed New York pass ignited his team.

The Chiefs beat the New York Giants 31-7 and pushed their record for the young season to 4-0. It’s only the third time in franchise history that the team has started the season with four victories. The Giants are now 0-4, the first time that’s happened to them since the 1987 season.

The game was still very much in doubt late in the third quarter as the Chiefs held a 10-7 lead, the same one they had carried into the locker room at half-time. The Giants faced a third down-and-17 play at their 14-yard line. Quarterback Eli Manning found his favorite target on the day, completing a pass to wide receiver Victor Cruz that was marked down as 17-yard completion and a first down for New York at their 31-yard line.

But as the sticks were being moved down the sideline, the television replay showed that Cruz’s knee hit the ground at 16 yards out, or about a half-yard short of a first-down. Reid threw the red challenge flag at the urging of his assistants upstairs in the coaching box.

Referee Terry McAulay went under the hood saw the replay and very quickly agreed with Reid’s assessment, changing placement of the ball behind the first-down marker.

“My guys upstairs did a nice job with that,” Reid said. “That was a pretty big challenge and they were very accurate with what they saw.”

Now instead of having 1st-and-10, the Giants were facing 4th-and-1 on their side of the 50-yard line. Tom Coughlin sent his punt team on the field and that’s when the game all but came to an end for the New Yorkers.

“If it hadn’t been on the 30-yard line, I would have gone for it on fourth down,” Coughlin said. “But if I would have gone for it on fourth down and didn’t make it at that point in the game, it would have been a foolish error. So we punted the ball and punted it right down them idle of the field.”

Punter Steve Weatherford hit a 59-yard punt to the Chiefs 11-yard line. WR Dexter McCluster caught the ball, did a complete spin to escape the first guy down on coverage, ran to his left, cut back towards the center of the field and went 89 yards for a touchdown. The PAT kick gave the Chiefs a 17-7 lead, control of the game and set up their fourth victory in as many games.

“Once I caught it, I had some great blocks and my instincts kicked in,” McCluster said of his second career punt return TD. “I think it was a big spark to this team winning.”

Coughlin knew immediately that the big play on special teams was going to be tough for his team to overcome.

“The special teams errors hurt very much,” said Coughlin. The punt return down the middle of the field to an excellent returner, it’s going to bite you if you do it. If you continually do it’s going to hurt you and it did.”

Late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs added a pair of touchdown passes as QB Alex Smith found RB Jamaal Charles open for a 2-yard score and then WR Dwayne Bowe for a 34-yard TD pass.

The first half was all about defense. With the exception of two big yardage plays, one for each team, it was the defenders that dominated the action. The first quarter was scoreless, but as the period ended the Chiefs had a 1st-and-goal situation that in three plays turned into the first score of the game as Smith found TE Sean McGrath in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The PAT kick was good and the Chiefs had a 7-0 lead.

The Giants came right back and tied the score needing just two offensive plays to go 74 yards. The big play was a 69-yard pass from Manning to Cruz. On the play, Cruz badly beat CB Dunta Robinson, running past him at mid-field and rolling untouched into the end zone. The PAT tied the game at 7-7.

The teams traded turnovers, as OLB Tamba Hali sacked Manning, forcing a fumble that Robinson recovered for the Chiefs. Two plays later C Rodney Hudson’s shot-gun snap to Smith went off the center’s backside and the loose ball was recovered by New York LB Spencer Paysinger. That was the Chiefs first turnover of the 2013 season. It would not be their last as Smith later threw a pair of interceptions.

Before the first half came to an end, the Chiefs got a 51-yard field goal from Ryan Succop that gave them a 10-7 lead. Just before the half ended, Giants kicker Josh Brown was wide left on a 44-yard field goal attempt and Kansas City held a 3-point lead at intermission.

The second half was all Kansas City with McCluster’s touchdown return and two scoring passes from the offense. The Giants generated nothing on offense in the third and fourth quarters with 116 total yards and no points.

“Our defense got us some turnovers in the second half and we weren’t able to do anything with it,” said Manning. “We got no drives going and then we got no rhythm offensively. We have to find a way to get things going and start making some plays.”

The Chiefs were able to make some plays, both on the field with McCluster’s TD return and on the sidelines with Reid’s challenge.

It leaves the Chiefs a surprising 4-0, matching what the team did in 1996 and 2003, and their offensive leader insists they are keeping their heads down and getting ready only for the next game. They visit Nashville next Sunday to play the 3-1 Tennessee Titans.

“You can’t start looking down the line,” said Smith. “You can’t start counting anything. The entire focus all off-season, all through camp, all we talked about was 1-0, to get the first one. It’s such a week-to-week thing.”

Right now it’s week-to-week winning for the Chiefs.

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