The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the New York Giants in dominant fashion Sunday. The Chiefs defense, which has been rock solid to start the season, allowed only one score on the day but, perhaps even more impressively, allowed the Giants only one first down on 14 third-down-conversion attempts.
Not to be outdone, Kansas City's offense, which had been the team's weak link to start the season, was hitting on all cylinders as well. Quarterback Alex Smith threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns, running back Jamaal Charles picked up 65 yards on the ground and 62 through the air, and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe sealed the victory with a 34-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown with 3:15 remaining in the game.
This was the first game this season that the Chiefs, 4-0 for the first time since 2003, played a complete game. Where the Kansas City offense struggled at times to move the ball against the Dallas Cowboys, and the defense struggled to stop the Philadelphia Eagles' running game, both were on point against the Giants, even getting help from the special teams in the form of a punt return touchdown by Dexter McCluster.
Kansas City's Offense Has the Weapons
Punditry, being what it is, can be taken with a grain of salt. Talking heads the league over proclaimed that Kansas City was a "solid" team but one that "lacked the weapons" to compete all season long against the presumed heavyweights. Over the course of the last two weeks, as the offense has started to come together, the Chiefs have begun to get production out of their skill-position players.
Speedy wide receiver Donnie Avery has begun to emerge as a reliable target opposite Dwayne Bowe; blue-collar back up tight end Sean McGrath whose yeoman work ethic has helped him carve out a niche for himself cleaning up the underneath yardage, and slot wide receiver Dexter McCluster has started producing with the additional attention given to Bowe and Avery.
Kansas City has the offensive weapons to not only compete, but look for them to be one of, if not the top, teams in the AFC come playoff time.
Special Teams Protection Must Improve
Blocked field goals and punts have plagued Kansas City all the way back to the preseason. The Chiefs had yet another punt blocked on Sunday. It resulted in an injury, albeit a minor one, to Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt.
The Chiefs brand of efficient, mistake-free offense cannot continue to thrive if they're giving opponents freebies in the special teams game.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars it cost the Chiefs a safety, and against Dallas it cost them a chance at three points. Sunday, against the Giants it very nearly cost Kansas City their difference-maker in the field-position game. We don't often think of punters as crucial to a team's success, but Colquitt is vital to limiting opponents' playbooks by pinning offenses deep in their own territory.
Protection in the punt and placekicking games must improve going forward, or the Chiefs could find a tremendously promising season unraveling rather quickly.
The Chiefs Have Special Young Players Waiting in the Wings on Defense
While most everyone around the league is familiar with Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, Dontari Poe, Brandon Flowers and the other starters on the Kansas City defense, two less-heralded players showed up big against the Giants on Sunday, and look to be making a name for themselves going forward.
Defensive end Allen Bailey, a third-round draft pick of Kansas City's in 2011, and defensive back Marcus Cooper a rookie seventh-round selection by the San Francisco 49ers, whom the Chiefs picked up after he was waived, found themselves with extended playing time against the Giants and made the most of their opportunities.
Bailey had a vicious sack of Giants quarterback Eli Manning and found himself around the quarterback and the ball quite a bit. He plays with a combination of speed and strength that will make it difficult for the Chiefs to keep him off the field.
The real surprise, though, was how well rookie cornerback Cooper played after he came on in relief of the wildly ineffective Dunta Robinson. Robinson was playing in place of the injured Brandon Flowers and surrendered the lone New York score on the day, when he was beat in man coverage by Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz for a 69-yard score.
Kansas City fans can breathe a little easier, realizing that they have depth in addition to talent in that defense.
Following the victory over the Giants, things appear to be very bright for Kansas City at the quarter mark of the 2013 season. The offense is starting to come together, and the defense—one of the top defenses in the league—is discovering it has depth.
Kansas City fans should take away that this team has the potential to compete for a playoff spot and beyond, provided the Chiefs can stay healthy and correct a few minor issues.