KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The last time this happened to the New York Giants, they won only six games and missed the postseason entirely.
Now, for one of the NFL's oldest and proudest franchises, there seems to be a gloomy feel of history repeating itself. The once-hapless now resurgent Kansas City Chiefs pounded the Giants 31-7 on Sunday, plunging them to 0-4 for the first time since the 1987 team started 0-5 just one year after bringing the Super Bowl championship to the Big Apple.
"I wish somebody would pinch me," said defensive end Justin Tuck. "So I'd wake up."
After allowing Eli Manning to get sacked seven times in a 38-0 loss the week before to Carolina, the Giants' patched-up offensive line let KC get him down just three times.
"We just have to keep working and come back and figure out offensively what is going to be our best way to get things going," said Manning. "You feel like you have good preparation and guys competed today. But we just aren't making many plays."
The Chiefs were making plenty of plays, especially in the fourth quarter after leading only 17-7 in the third.
Alex Smith, who lost his job last year in San Francisco, threw three touchdown passes and Dexter McCluster returned a punt 89 yards for another score as the Chiefs joined the 1980 Detroit Lions as the only teams in modern league history to win two or fewer games one season and then rocket away to a 4-0 start the next.
"We're four games in, granted," said wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. "We don't like the situation. But we dug ourselves in it. We've just got to get ourselves out of it."
Smith insists no one in KC foresaw 4-0.
"To be honest, all we talked about all offseason was being 1-0," said Smith. "Just get the first one."
Did he ever dream of being 4-0?
"No, to answer your question."
The injury-ravaged Giants trailed only 17-7 after three quarters. They managed a 69-yard catch-and-run TD from Manning to Victor Cruz.
Smith hit touchdown passes of 4, 2 and 35 yards and was 24 for 41 for 288 yards. He was intercepted twice and the Chiefs also lost a fumble, Kansas City's first turnovers in what may be turning into a magical season under first-year head coach Andy Reid.
"I know they'll battle," said first-year coach Andy Reid, who spent the previous 14 seasons coaching the Eagles. "That's what I know. There are a lot of things I don't know but I do know this: We're a tough bunch."
Manning 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.
All of a sudden, the misery of 2012 that cost coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli their jobs seems a distant memory to the Chiefs
"We just kept working, kept sticking together," said safety Eric Berry. "We know things don't always go your way. But you've got to be able to stick together through tough times, in life, period. We kept leaning on each other. Nobody pointed a finger at anybody at any time. We just stuck together and I feel like that was the foundation that was built for us to do what we're doing now. But we've still got a lot of work to do."
Now the misery belongs to the Giants.
"The season is not over," said safety Antrel Rolle. "We've lost four games but we have 12 left."
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,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.
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.
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.
NOTES: Like many fans, referee Terry McAulay is used to Reid being with the Eagles. After Reid successfully challenged a spot in the third quarter, McAulay announced, "Philadelphia will not be charged a timeout."... Gary Barbaro, a Pro Bowl safety in the early '80s, was inducted into the Chiefs' Hall of Fame at halftime. ... The 1987 Giants team which started 0-5 and missed the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl the year before, came in a strike-interrupted season. ... In their last 16 games against the NFC, the Chiefs are 13-3.
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