Chiefs aim for 3rd straight win against NFC East foe, host Giants
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid may want to talk with the NFL schedule makers to have the NFC East on the docket every year.
That won't happen even if Reid is 2-0 against a division he once dominated. Reid's undefeated Chiefs will play its third straight game against an NFC East opponent when the winless New York Giants visit Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.
Kansas City clawed past the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 and helped Reid defeat his former employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, last Thursday. In that 26-16 win at Lincoln Financial Field, the usually ornery Eagles fans gave Reid a standing ovation when he led his team onto the field.
After the dust settled and memories became reality, Reid's Chiefs marched to 3-0 for the first time since 2010 and are trying for the franchise's first 4-0 start since a 9-0 run to open 2003. Against a team Reid coached for 14 seasons, the Chiefs forced five turnovers and safety Eric Berry returned a tipped pass 38 yards for a score. Still, with a 10-0 lead, the Chiefs kept the Eagles hanging around until Justin Houston's sack strip and fumble recovery sealed the win in the fourth quarter.
Kansas City's defense has played very well this season and so has Houston, who registered 4 1/2 sacks in Philly and leads the NFL with 7 1/2. Houston owns 12 1/2 sacks in 10 career games against the NFC.
"You guys know how hard it is to win games in the National Football League," Reid said. "So, it is important, but we still have a lot of season left. There is no time to relax on what you have done; you just have to continue to build and get better. We have so many things that we can get better at ... it's crazy, and so, we are going to do that."
The Chiefs managed to win despite allowing 431 yards on defense. The Chiefs were no slouches on offense, however, as wide receiver Donnie Avery racked up 141 yards on seven receptions. Running back Jamaal Charles not only caught seven passes for 80 yards, but ran for 92 and a touchdown on 20 carries for K.C., which is 12-3 in its last 15 games against the NFC East. Also, the Chiefs offense has yet to turn the ball over and the team owns a plus-9 turnover ratio this season.
A catalyst for efficiency, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was 22-of-35 for 273 yards against the Eagles and is 22-5-1 as a starter since 2011 with 34 touchdown passes to just 10 interceptions.
New York was annihilated by the Carolina Panthers, 38-0, last Sunday at Bank of America Stadium and is off to its first 0-3 start since 1996. It hasn't lost four in a row to begin a season since losing five straight to kick off 1987, when replacement players were used. The last 0-4 start in a non strike- shortened campaign was 0-5 in 1979.
Against the Panthers, the Giants allowed 402 yards to their 150 and quarterback Eli Manning was sacked seven times. The offensive line obviously struggled all day and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy had a field day with three sacks. Still, Manning was supportive of his linemen.
"Sometimes you play games and you get beat and it's unfortunate," Manning said. "The first two games I thought our offensive line played very, very well and we were able to sit back there and go through progressions and go through reads and make throws. This past game they got after us a good bit and made it tough for the offense to execute. That was unfortunate, but I think our offensive line has good players. We've got guys who do take pride in what they're doing and want to play well and are going to step up and play well. We had a bad game and they'll get better."
Manning passed for a season-low 119 yards against the Panthers and was intercepted for the eighth time this season. He threw a career-high 25 INTs back in 2010 and started that year with six picks in his first three games. Manning was asked what methods or procedures will be needed to turn this season around.
"Words aren't going to fix anything," said Manning, who has started 138 straight games and is 2-0 lifetime against the Chiefs. "It's about us having great practices and coming out there and playing better on game day."
But Manning can't do this alone and needs the ground game to find some life. David Wilson is still struggling to find holes, as he ran for a season-high 39 yards on 11 carries last week. Prone to fumbling, Wilson is still New York's best option. It wouldn't hurt to give Brandon Jacobs and Da'Rel Scott more carries to mix it up because Kansas City will try to take receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks out of the game with press coverage and safety help.
The Giants have won the last four meetings with the Chiefs and lead the all- time series by a 10-2 count. Kansas City's last win in the series was a 20-17 overtime affair at Arrowhead in 1995 and the Chiefs are 2-4 at home versus the G-men. Tom Coughlin is 5-1 against the Chiefs all-time, including 3-1 during his tenure in Jacksonville (1995-2002).
Reid sports a 17-14 lifetime record against New York, including a 2-1 mark in the postseason, and is 10-9 against Coughlin. His last game as head coach of the Eagles was a 42-7 disaster at the Giants on Dec. 30, 2012.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When the offense is turning the ball over at a high rate, it's not fair for a defense trying to rest and recuperate. The Giants have turned the ball over at least twice in all three games this season for a total of 12 giveaways. They could take a page out of Kansas City's book, which shows an NFL-best plus-9 turnover ratio.
Pressure up front has caused Manning to hurry at times and that forces the two-time Super Bowl champion to lose his timing with the receivers. Manning and the G-men amassed 150 yards on what was supposed to be a poor Carolina defense, but the hosts proved that notion wrong. The Panthers defensive line was either lucky or the Giants tipped their plays.
Wilson said the team is trying to avoid the negative response.
"We've just to keep in unison, continue to grow together, and don't point any fingers because this is a team sport," Wilson said. "Everybody makes mistakes out there, and that's when you've got to be a leader or a teammate and help them up and keep them going. We've just got to stay positive and turn this thing around."
Wilson said Coughlin, who's usually a fiery guy, has been trying to keep the players' spirits up and get his point across. Coughlin pressed that the only way to get better is through practice and smart play. Whether the offense can finally do that depends on the protection up front and a balanced attack. New York has some history on its side, as the last 0-3 team to make the playoffs was the 1998 Buffalo Bills. So it can be done.
Kansas City's defense had to be smiling during its film session after a big win over the Eagles. Houston probably had the biggest smile following a 4 1/2- sack performance and is looking for an encore performance. So is Reid.
"I expect good things from everybody, including the coaching staff, myself; I just expect it. That's how I go into it. I expect to do a good job," Reid said. "I can't tell you that they've exceeded, but I'm proud of them and how they're playing right now. We're early in this season; we're only in the third game here, as we just finished that up. We have a lot of season ahead of us and it's important that we keep getting better. There's room to improve here and we can't lose focus of that."
Kansas City's defense may be facing a winless team, but the Giants can break it open at any time. The secondary is facing another tough receiving tandem in Cruz and Nicks, arguably two of the best wideouts Kansas City has faced yet.
The key to New York halting its winless start is by forcing turnovers, something the Chiefs aren't willing to give up. Smith is one of the best in the business at protecting the football, so it will be up to the Giants' defensive line to make reads tougher on the quarterback. When Smith rolls out and cuts the field in half, that's when the Giants can cash in and put the ball into Manning's hands. Because when Manning gets comfortable with his surroundings he's a tough player to beat.
Arrowhead Stadium is genera;;y a house of horrors for visiting teams, but this time it will be the Giants who send the crowd home with an early and bitter Halloween treat.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 23, Chiefs 13