It’s been a successful formula so far for the 2009 New York Giants: Four times New York has scored on its first possession, and four times the Giants have won.
Another (Big Blue)print that’s worked: Points off turnovers, a category in which the Giants rank at the top of the National Football League, with 45 points scored off of opponents’ miscues.
The saying goes (albeit in poor English), “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” After three weeks of success in previous victories, why change what’s worked?
It didn’t take the Giants (4-0) long to start riding a familiar road to another easy victory when the they recovered a fumble by the hapless Kansas City Chiefs (0-4) on the game’s opening kickoff. New York took an early 7-0 lead just five plays later, on a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Steve Smith just 2:16 into the game, en route to a 27-16 win in Kansas City on Sunday, completing a sweep of the Giants’ three-game road trip.
Although, the fumble was the Chiefs’ only turnover of the game, the tone was already set, and the Giants led from wire to wire, despite Manning committing a turnover himself, on the each of New York’s next two possessions in the first quarter.
Kansas City sacked Manning and recovered his fumble on the New York 36 yard-line, which led to the Chiefs’ first score of the game, a Ryan Succop 34-yard field goal, with 5:02 left in the opening quarter, cutting the Giants’ lead to 7-3. On the Giants’ next possession, Manning was
intercepted at the Chefs’ 15 yard-line, throwing a little behind wide receiver Mario Manningham, wasting a nice, juggling 43-yard reception along the right sideline by Manningham three plays earlier, during the same drive.
Manning though, responded the next time the Giants touched the ball. A questionable personal foul penalty on Kansas City’s Jarrad Page for a hit on Smith which appeared to be clean, set New York up with a first down at the Chiefs’ 25 yard-line. Manning capitalized on the next play, capping a four-play, 71 yard drive in just 1:39, with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Smith, 1:27 into the second quarter.
Smith has stepped up nicely as the go-to receiver the Giants sought coming into the season. The 2007 second-round pick out of USC leads New York with 34 receptions this season. His two touchdowns and 11 receptions on Sunday were both career-highs, and the most ever by a Giant wide receiver in a non-overtime game (Amani Toomer had 12 in an overtime win at Philadelphia in 2006). Smith’s 134 yards on Sunday also matched a career-high that he set just two weeks prior, with ten catches at Dallas.
On the final drive of the first half, Manning continued to maintain his reputation as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks during the two-minute drill. After a Kansas City punt to the New York 13-yard line with 1:49 left in the half, the Giants’ signal caller directed a nine-play, 80-yard drive, resulting in a Lawrence Tynes 25-yard field goal, putting the Giants up 17-3 as the first half concluded. Two plays before Tynes’ kick, tight end Kevin Boss caught a 3rd-and-3 pass from Manning for 24 yards to the Chiefs’ 7-yard line. Boss was injured (he’d later return okay) on the play, but he had the courage and the presence of mind to get up, and limp into formation, so the Giants, without any timeouts left, could avoid the automatic ten-second runoff, line up quickly, and spike the ball in time for Tynes’ field goal attempt.
Meanwhile, the Giants’ defense which was dominant through the first three quarters, allowing just four first downs, 91 total yards, and only 23 passing yards before the fourth quarter, forcing Kansas City to punt on six straight possessions spanning the first three quarters, after the Chiefs’ first-quarter field goal.
The second half started with some trickery on both sides. Kansas City opened the half with an onside kick, but an alert Bryan Kehl, who also pounced on the Chiefs’ game-opening fumble, recovered the ball again for the Giants, at the Chiefs’ 42 yard-line. That led to another Tynes field goal, this time from 40 yards away, putting the Giants up 20-3, with 10:22 remaining in the third quarter. Tynes received that opportunity after the Giants kept the eight-play drive alive by running a direct snap on the fourth play of the drive to running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who ran for nine yards and a first down on a 4th-and-3 play that Manning did a good job of selling by faking a high snap over his head.
In the fourth quarter, rookie wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who sat out the past two games with a foot injury, showed why the Giants drafted him with the first pick in the 2009 draft, with a couple of nice stutter-step moves to free himself for a 54–yard touchdown –- the first of his career –- on a sprint up the left sideline, giving the Giants a commanding 27-3 lead with 13:28 left in the game.
That was Manning’s last play of the game after suffering a bruised heel while planting his right foot, attempting a pass on the previous play. Manning, who completed 20 of 34 passes for 292 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, doesn’t believe the injury should keep him from starting next week’s game at home, against Oakland (1-3). “I don’t think it’s awful, I think I’ve been injured worse before,” he said. “We’ll see how it feels throughout the week. I could stand up, I could still walk around and put pressure on it. I always assume I’m going to play, that I’m going to be out there. I’ve always been a pretty quick healer. I’ll be doing everything I can possibly do this week to get healthy and prepared to play Oakland.”
After not allowing a touchdown through seven quarters over the past two weeks, the Giants let the Chiefs make what should have been a blowout, become respectable, as Kansas City found the end zone for two harmless scores in the final quarter. Jamaal Charles, the culprit who fumbled the opening kickoff, somewhat redeemed himself after Nicks’ touchdown with a 53-yard kickoff return to the Giants’ 48-yard line. The Chiefs then converted two fourth downs during an 11-play touchdown drive, but they failed on an ensuing two-point conversion attempt, to pull only to within 27-9, with 9:26 left in the game.
New York then went three-and-out on its next two possessions with backup quarterback David Carr replacing Manning. Sandwiched in between those two possessions, was the Chiefs’ final scoring drive of 12 plays, 59 yards, to make the final margin 27-16, on a touchdown with 4:54 remaining.
The Giants held big advantages in both total yards (429-193) and passing yards (273-88), as Brandon Jacobs (92 yards on 21 carries) helped New York outgain Kansas City on the ground, 156-105.
New York, which has started 4-0 for the second straight year, has won its first three road games of a season for the first time since 1990. The Giants also became only the eighth of 107 teams since 1990 to play in three straight road games while navigating through such a trip without a defeat. The Chiefs meanwhile, are just 6-30 since their last winning season, a 9-7 campaign in 2006.