KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Even in a league known for quick turnarounds and breathtaking free-falls, this seems preposterous.
The Kansas City Chiefs, one season removed from a 2-14 debacle that cost the coach and general manager their jobs, are 4-0 after pounding the New York Giants 31-7 on Sunday. Only one other team, Detroit in 1980, has done it.
The Giants, the proud Super Bowl champions of 2007 and 2011 season, are 0-4 for the first time since 1987, a mass of injury and disarray.
Alex Smith threw three touchdown passes, Dexter McCluster returned a punt 89 yards for another score and the Chiefs went to 4-0 for the first time since the 2003 team started 9-0.
The injury-ravaged Giants trailed only 17-7 after three quarters. They managed only one TD, on a 69-yard catch-and-run from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz.
Smith, obtained in the offseason from San Francisco, hit touchdown passes of 4, 2 and 35 yards. He was 24 for 41 for 288 yards. He was intercepted twice and the Chiefs also lost a fumble, their first turnovers in what may be turning into a magical season for a franchise which hasn’t won a playoff game in two decades.
Manning, operating behind a banged-up offensive line, was 18 for 37 for 217 yards and the one TD. He was sacked three times and intercepted once, but harried and hurried much of the bright, sunny afternoon.
Late in the first quarter, Smith hit Sean McGrath, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe for gains of 12, 17 and 14 yards on successive plays. McGrath, the heavily bearded tight end and Seattle Seahawks castoff, got free in the end zone to catch Smith’s 5-yard TD pass to cap the 11-play, 98-yard drive.
The drive took 5 minutes, 38 seconds. To answer, Manning needed only 54 seconds.
On second down from the Giants 31, Cruz went streaking down the right sideline – turf normally patrolled by injured cornerback Brandon Flowers – caught Manning’s pass in stride and raced into the end zone. Trailing far behind was Dunta Robinson, a backup cornerback who had moved over to the left side.
The Chiefs led only 10-7 when McCluster fielded the ball and set sail on the first TD punt return the Chiefs have had since Sept. 13, 2010, when McCluster took one back a team-record 94 yards against San Diego during a rain storm. He juked one tackler, put a dizzying 360-degree spin move on another and then broke clear up the middle.
Ryan Succop, who kicked a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter, connected on a 53-yarder a few minutes later.
In the fourth quarter, Smith fired a 2-yard TD pass to Charles and a 35-yarder to Bowe, who twisted free of a couple of tacklers.