Kansas City, MO – Alex Smith threw three touchdown passes while getting plenty of help from his defense and special teams, and the Kansas City Chiefs maintained their surprising early-season success with a 31-7 rout of the wayward New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium.
Smith shook off a pair of interceptions to throw for 288 yards on 24-of-41 passing, while Jamaal Charles accumulated 127 yards from scrimmage and caught one of Smith's touchdown strikes to help Kansas City (4-0) to its best four- game start to a season since 2003.
Dexter McCluster contributed a dazzling 89-yard punt return touchdown to the win, while a swarming defense limited the Giants (0-4) to 298 total yards, 11 first downs and a 1-for-14 success rate on third down.
"On all three sides of the ball, we're doing a good job of taking care of the ball, scoring points, taking the ball away, scoring on special teams," said Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who added a touchdown catch late. "Right now we're 4-0 and the target is on our back, and we have to keep pushing."
New York, now 0-4 for the first time since the strike-marred 1987 campaign, was dealt a second consecutive lopsided defeat after last week's 38-0 manhandling by Carolina. Victor Cruz provided the Giants' lone bright spot by totaling 164 yards on 10 receptions, including a 69-yard touchdown connection with Eli Manning.
Manning finished just 18-of-37 for 217 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
"We had one big play to Victor and a pretty good drive before halftime, but besides that we were just three-and-out," said Manning. "The defense got us some turnovers, and we weren't able to do anything with it. We are just not playing very well offensively."
Ryan Succop's 51-yard field goal just after the two-minute warning of the first half gave Kansas City a 10-7 edge, and the Chiefs' defense made the lead stand up with a dominant display over the final two quarters.
New York didn't record a first down following the break until Cruz came down with a 10-yard catch with under 1 1/2 minutes to go in the third quarter, shortly after McCluster extended the margin to double digits with a back- breaking return.
The diminutive receiver fielded a booming Steve Weatherford punt at his own 11-yard line, sidestepped the first couple of defenders, then found a seam down the middle of the field and turned on the jets while eluding a few more tackle attempts to stake Kansas City to a 17-7 advantage late in the third quarter.
"We needed that," said Bowe. "Our punt return team did a great job holding guys up, and Dex did a great job finding holes. We told him once he hits like that nobody can stop him, and he did a great job finding the end zone."
With New York's offense continuing to sputter, the Chiefs salted the game away with a mammoth 14-play, 80-yard drive that consumed more than nine minutes of the fourth-quarter clock. A 53-yard field goal by Succop was taken off the board when the Giants were flagged for illegal formation, resulting in a first down, and Kansas City pushed further downfield when Smith hit tight end Kevin Brock for a 25-yard gain to the Giants' 20.
The Chiefs eventually got inside the 5-yard line, and Smith found Charles on a short pass from two yards out to all but put the game out of reach with 5:43 to go.
A Manning fumble on the ensuing possession enabled Kansas City to tack on another late score, as Bowe won a jump ball on Smith's downfield heave to pull down a 34-yard touchdown catch with 3:15 left to play.
"I thought our defense played hard today and I thought for the most part if we had some offense to go with it, if only to get them off the field for a while, the finish might have been better," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "Our inability to do anything in the second half, there's no excuse for it."
The Giants' last reasonable scoring opportunity came in the closing stages of the first half, when Manning hit on seven throws in hurry-up mode to set up a 44-yard field goal try for Josh Brown. The kick narrowly went wide left, however, and New York still trailed by three at the break.
After both teams struggled to move the ball on their initial two possessions, the Chiefs got their offense going on their third trip of the day.
Smith led Kansas City on an impressive 11-play, 98-yard sequence in which he made plays with both his arm and legs. The veteran quarterback scrambled for a 9-yard gain on 3rd-and-8 to keep the drive alive, then evaded pressure and hit Charles up the field for 31 yards to get the Chiefs inside the New York 20. He later capped the series with a 5-yard dart to Sean McGrath in the end zone on the third snap of the second quarter.
It took the Giants just two plays and under a minute to pull even, however. Cruz blew past Dunta Robinson down the right side and hauled in Manning's well-thrown deep ball for a 69-yard score that knotted the game at 7-7.
Kansas City had an opportunity to regain the lead when Manning was stripped on a sack by Tamba Hali and Robinson recovered at the New York 35 with around five minutes left in the half. However, Smith couldn't handle a shotgun exchange from center Rodney Hudson two plays later and the Giants' Spencer Paysinger pounced on the loose ball for the Chiefs' first turnover of this season.
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul left with an apparent injury to his right knee midway through the fourth quarter after being blocked low by McGrath ... Charles finished with 65 rushing yards on 18 carries and added five catches for 62 yards ... McGrath set career highs with five catches and 64 receiving yards in addition to scoring his first NFL touchdown ... McCluster's punt-return TD was the fourth-longest in Chiefs' history and second of his career, having had a 94-yard score against San Diego in the 2010 opener ... Including a victory in the 2008 NFC Playoffs while with Philadelphia, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has now won nine of his last 11 matchups with the Giants ... New York had won four straight in the series and lost for just the third time in 13 lifetime meetings with Kansas City.