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Chiefs run away from Giants

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was one of those plays that happen several times in a football game.

The player with the ball is tackled and the official places the ball in the wrong spot. Generally those moments quickly fade with the next snap.

But on Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid decided he wanted a second look, and his successful replay challenge seemed to ignite his team.

The Chiefs eventually beat the New York Giants 31-7 and pushed their record for the young season to 4-0. It is only the third time in franchise history that the team has started the season with four victories.

The Giants are 0-4, the first time that has happened since the 1987 season.

"I know what their record is, but I also know they have good coaches and good players," Reid said. "As far as our team, we overcame three turnovers with three takeaways. The defense played well."

Late in the third quarter, the Chiefs held a 10-7 lead and the Giants faced a third down-and-17 at their 14-yard line. Quarterback Eli Manning found his favorite target on the day, completing a pass to wide receiver Victor Cruz that was marked down as a 17-yard completion and a first down for New York.

But television replay showed that Cruz's knee hit the ground at 16 yards out, or about a half-yard short of the first-down marker. Reid threw the red challenge flag and the officials reviewed and agreed with his assessment, changing placement of the ball behind the first-down marker.

"My guys upstairs did a nice job with that," Reid said of his staff in the coaching box high above the field. They told me to challenge the placement. "That was a pretty big challenge and they were very accurate with what they saw."

Facing a fourth-and-1, the Giants sent their punt team on the field and that is when the game all but came to an end, as Steve Weatherford hit a 59-yard punt to the Chiefs 11-yard line. Kansas City punt returner Dexter McCluster caught the ball, ran to his left, cut back toward the center of the field and went 89 yards for a touchdown. The PAT kick gave the Chiefs a 17-7 lead and control of the game.

"Once I caught it, I had some great blocks and my instincts kicked in," McCluster said of his second career punt return TD. "I think it was a big spark to this team winning."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin knew immediately that the big play on special teams was going to be tough for his team to overcome.

"The special teams errors hurt very much," Coughlin said. "The punt return down the middle of the field to an excellent returner, it's going to bite you if you do it. If you continually do it's going to hurt you and it did."

Late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs added a pair of touchdown passes as quarterback Alex Smith found running back Jamaal Charles open for a 2-yard score and then wider receiver Dwayne Bowe for a 34-yard TD.

The first half was all about defense. Smith found tight end Sean McGrath in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass and the Chiefs grabbed a 7-0 lead. But the Giants came right back and in two offensive plays had a touchdown of their own when Manning connected with Cruz for a 69-yard touchdown pass.

Before the first half came to an end, the Chiefs got a 51-yard field goal from Ryan Succop that gave them a 10-7 lead. Just before intermission, Giants kicker Josh Brown was wide left on a 44-yard field goal attempt.

The second half was all Kansas City with McCluster's touchdown return and two scoring passes from the offense. The Giants generated nothing on offense in the second half with 116 total yards.

"Our defense got us some turnovers in the second half and we weren't able to do anything with it," Manning said. "We got no drives going and then we got no rhythm offensively. We have to find a way to get things going and start making some plays."

Notes: The Giants had two offensive line starters that were inactive for the game: C David Baas and LG Chris Snee. That is 219 NFL starts off the field. They were replaced by Jim Cordle at center -- his first NFL start -- and James Brewer as the starting right guard, his second NFL start. Veteran offensive lineman David Diehl was active for the first time this season, but he did not play. Diehl came back from a broken thumb sustained in the preseason. ... McCluster's touchdown was the fourth longest punt return in Chiefs history. ... The Giants lost DB Jayron Hosley in the first half with a hamstring injury and CB Aaron Ross in the second half with a back injury. Also in the second half, defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul left the field with assistance. There was no immediate announcement on the exact nature of their injuries.
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