By Curt Macysyn
If there was a recipe for a winless season, it would contain one part non-existent running attack, a pinch of poor special teams play, topped with an inability to stop the opposition on third down. Early in the NFL season, the New York Giants have exhibited all of these ingredients, and more, in thoroughly earning their 0-4 record.
After suffering through a 2-14 season in 2012, the Kansas City Chiefs have already doubled their win total from last year (4-0), so should anyone be surprised about the Chiefs 31-7 victory over the hapless Giants before a capacity crowd at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri?
The Giants hung around early, and the first quarter ended scoreless. But KC struck first as quarterback Alex Smith hit third-string tight end Sean McGrath with a five-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead after 13 seconds elapsed in the second quarter. McGrath was in the starting lineup because both Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce were out with knee injuries.
But New York bounced back and answered less than a minute later when Eli Manning tossed a 69-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz and quickly tied the game 7-7 with a point after touchdown.
With under two minutes remaining in the half, Kansas City kicker Ryan Succop booted a 51-yard field goal, and the Chiefs took a 10-7 lead. But Manning led the Giants downfield in the closing seconds of the first half, and New York was able to attempt a 44-yard field goal with six seconds left. Giants kicker Josh Brown missed wide left, and KC dodged a bullet.
The Giants defense forced the first three turnovers of the Chiefs season, but New York could not take advantage of interceptions of Alex Smith by cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Antrel Rolle. Eli Manning suffered through another sub-par performance completing only 18 passes in 37 attempts for a 48.6 completion percentage.
While the New York defense played reasonably well, the Giants special teams unit let the team down. The punt group gave up another return touchdown as Dexter McCluster raced 89 yards on a Steve Weatherford kick, and the Chiefs went ahead 17-7. Then the Chiefs put the Giants away with a drive that chewed up nine minutes and 17 seconds on the clock and culminated with a two-yard touchdown pass from Smith to running back Jamaal Charles.
An Eli Manning fumble gave Kansas City the ball in Giants territory, and Smith capitalized with a 34-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dwayne Bowe to cement the Chiefs fourth victory of the season. In dropping to 0-4, the Giants are faced with the knowledge that only one team has crawled out of a similar deficit to make the playoffs in NFL history.
Offense Grade: D
Although many would like to give the offensive unit a failing grade, the fact of the matter is that Victor Cruz had 10 receptions for 164 yards and one score. The running attack averaged 4.7 yards per rush, and David Wilson appears to be getting his sea legs under him with 55 yards rushing.
On the downside, quarterback Eli Manning threw two more interceptions, and for good measure, fumbled the ball twice. Tight end Brandon Myers did not record a catch, and Da’Rel Scott has proven he cannot catch the ball out of the backfield. The offensive line played fairly well, with reserves Jim Cordle and James Brewer in the lineup, despite the fact that they gave up three sacks on the afternoon.
Hakeem Nicks had nine targets, but only came up with three catches on the afternoon. Throughout the early season, Nicks has seemed out of sync with Manning, and this game was no exception. At this point in their season, the Giants cannot be satisfied with moral victories, and Manning cannot continue to turn the ball over.
Defense Grade: C
First for the bright spots, Mark Herzlich had seven tackles on the afternoon, as he played his best game as a Giant. Herzlich filled gaps well and did a better job in pass coverage. Cornerback Trumaine McBride came in for an injured Aaron Ross and showed good coverage skills. Prince Amukamara showed tight coverage and came down with an interception of Alex Smith as well.
Antrel Rolle had a diving interception in the third quarter and also had six tackles on the afternoon. But that was about it for the Giants defensive unit.
Linebacker Jacquian Williams struggled in pass coverage all afternoon, and Spencer Paysinger was a step behind the play in many cases. New York’s defensive front contained Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles, except for one 24-yard run, but the unit did not record a sack of Smith, however.
On the season, the Giants have given up a league-worst 146 points, which is a 36.5 per game average.
Special Teams Grade: F
For the second straight week kicker Josh Brown missed a critical field goal; this one from 44 yards which would have tied the game before halftime. Brown’s misses have been a momentum killer for the Giants. Perhaps New York will take a look at kickers this week, as the missed field goals have deflated the G-men.
The special teams gave up another punt return for a touchdown. This time Dexter McCluster weaved his way around an undisciplined punt team for an 89-yard score, which was the beginning of the end for New York. The special teams unit has underperformed early in the season, so changes may be in order this week.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.