Consider these halftime stats from the 31-7 Giants loss:
- The Giants defense held Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery to a combined 53 yards in the first half, or an average of 17.66 yards per player.
- New York’s patchwork offensive line, which had two first-time starters in right guard James Brewer and center Jim Cordle, shut out NFL sack leader Justin Houston and limited outside linebacker Tamba Hali to one sack through 30 minutes of play.
- The Giants rushing game’s 4.7 yards-per-carry average was much better than the Chiefs’ 3.3 average.
The Giants had the momentum in their favor, battling to a 10-7 halftime deficit. However, missed opportunities such as kicker Josh Brown’s 44-yard missed field goal and their inability to capitalize on three Chiefs gaffes sting more than Dexter McCluster’s 89-yard punt return for a touchdown.
So where do the Giants go from here?
“We have to stick together,” said safety Antrel Rolle. “I thought we fought a little bit more in that game, our intensity was a little better that game, but that could even improve.
“As far as just making the plays when they present themselves, helping each other out. Defense helping the offense, offense helping the defense, you know, special teams helping both. That’s something that we have yet to do as a team is collectively be in sync.”
While a 0-4 mark doesn’t look promising for a team’s playoff aspirations—the only NFL team to start the regular season 0-4 and finish with a playoff berth is the 1992 San Diego Chargers—Giants fans might take solace in the current state of the NFC East.
One loss next week by the Dallas Cowboys, who face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, combined with a Giants win over the struggling Philadelphia Eagles would put the Giants just one game behind in the division lead.
However, it won’t matter if the Giants don’t start believing that they are capable of winning or if they don’t start finishing what they start on game days.
“From this point on, I told the guys today, 'We just have to believe that we can do it,’” Rolle said.
“Once you train your mind and really believe it, not just tell yourself that you believe it but really actually believe it, that’s when a lot of things are going to come together.”
Denver Broncos 52, Philadelphia Eagles 20
The Broncos scored a franchise-record 52 points fueled by quarterback Peyton Manning’s four touchdown passes.
Manning, who completed 28 of 34 for 327 yards in three quarters of play, now has 16 touchdown passes, the most ever by a quarterback to start a NFL regular season.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III’s third-quarter touchdown pass to receiver Pierre Garçon gave his team the lead for good.
Washington’s defense held the Raiders scoreless after Oakland jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
Redskins running back Roy Helu’s 14-yard touchdown run capped his team’s first win of 2013.
San Diego Chargers 30, Dallas Cowboys 21
The Chargers exploded for 17 unanswered second-half points to overcome a 21-13 Cowboys halftime lead.
Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 401 yards, and running back Danny Woodhead contributed two of his team’s three touchdowns, a 26-yard first-quarter run and a 13-yard third-quarter reception.
Tight end Antonio Gates was the recipient of Rivers’ final touchdown pass, a 56-yard, fourth-quarter strike. Kicker Nick Novak added three field goals to help his team seal the victory.
The Eagles will visit the Giants, Dallas will host Denver and the Redskins will look to regroup during their bye week.
The Giants’ injury list for Week 5 is starting to become scary.
Starting with the offensive line, head coach Tom Coughlin said that both center David Baas and right guard Chris Snee would continue to receive treatment this week. He didn’t know, however, if either player would be available for the team’s upcoming home game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The good news, though, is that neither has to rush back to the starting lineup because Coughlin was encouraged by the play of James Brewer in for Snee at right guard and Cordle in for Baas at center.
“Those two guys that everybody speculated about, they did okay,” Coughlin said at his Monday press conference.
“We did have a holding penalty up there, and there were some occasions where we could have obviously done a better job better than we did. They scrapped, and I was pleased with what they accomplished.”
On defense, starting middle linebacker Mark Herzlich was placed in a walking boot to protect an injured toe while defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins was also seen in a walking boot to protect his right leg.
“They’re in a boot for ankle-type (Jenkins), toe-type (Herzlich) reasons,” Coughlin said. “Hopefully it’s just something to restrict movement and they can come back and work this week.”
If Jenkins can’t go, the assumption is that Shaun Rogers would get the start in his place. If Herzlich can’t go, the team will likely turn to Allen Bradford, who was acquired off waivers from Seattle in Week 2 of the season.
There was no new information available on the statuses of Pierre-Paul, Ross or Tuck, all key starters. The Giants planned to update their statuses on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, with safety Will Hill eligible to return from his four-week league-imposed suspension this week, it would not be surprising if the team places Robinson, who has been seen the past two weeks in a protective boot, on injured reserve to clear a roster spot for Hill.
What Must Improve
1. Special Teams
In their past two games, the Giants special teams have been inconsistent.
On punt coverage, Steve Weatherford had another punt returned for a touchdown, this time by McCluster, who brought it back 89 yards for the score that not only broke open the game, it also accounted for seven of the 10 points the Chiefs generated thanks to excellent starting position.
Of Weatherford’s eight punts, the Chiefs three times had starting position on their 30-yard line or better, as Weatherford failed to put the ball outside of the numbers like Coughlin prefers.
It didn’t help that the punt coverage was unable to stop McCluster, who on those three returns generated 32 total yards to give his team even better starting field position.
Meanwhile in the placekicking department, Josh Brown, who came to the Giants with a reputation for having a big leg, missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the second quarter. Had he made that kick, it would have tied the game at 10-10 at the end of the half.
2. The Hakeem Nicks-Eli Manning Connection
Once receiver Hakeem Nicks ended his springtime boycott of the Giants’ OTAs, both he and quarterback Eli Manning insisted that it would take little time for them to get back in harmony.
They are still apparently looking for that connection. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Manning has targeted Nicks 25 times this season, connecting with him on just 12 receptions (48 percent) for 230 yards and no touchdowns.
For comparison purposes, in 2011, Nicks’ last healthy season, he and Manning connected on 61.9 percent of the targets for 1,637 yards.
If this passing game is to get back on track, it needs better production from its No. 1 receiver, who right now seems to be on a completely different page than his quarterback.
3. The Pass Rush
Different week, same story. The Giants defensive ends are simply not getting the job done, which naturally leads to the question as to why the coaches won’t give Damontre Moore, the team’s third-round draft pick, a chance.
The answer, according to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, is that Moore’s shoulder contusion, which he suffered after his eye-opening performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 of the preseason, stunted Moore’s development.
“We’re trying to slowly integrate him back into the fold,” Fewell told reporters before the Chiefs game. “When I say ‘slowly integrate,’ we’re trying to get him more reps in practice, so he understands the calls (and) he knows exactly what we’re doing.”
On special teams, Moore was dynamic against the Chiefs, recording two tackles and very nearly blocking a punt. If superstars are supposedly born on special teams, Moore, who for two consecutive weeks has been a playmaker, is a sack attack waiting to happen.
It’s up to the coaches to take the chance with him on certain pass-rushing situations. Certainly, the veterans in front of him who know the calls aren’t getting the job done—what is there to lose at this point?