ReFo: Giants @ Chiefs, Week 4
The Kansas City Chiefs’ bandwagon was jam-packed heading into last season — but it came to a screeching halt very quickly as the team struggled in all phases of the game before bottoming out with a league-worst 2-14 record. For those who didn’t dive headfirst off the bandwagon, this season’s 4-0 start should be no surprise as the Chiefs were often saddled with the label “best team to ever pick first in the draft”, and they’re proving it to this point in 2013. They cruised to a 31-7 win over the New York Giants, who find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum at 0-4 and perhaps running out of time as their hole grows deeper.
Despite the difficult start, the Giants’ season is still very much alive in the weak NFC East, and perhaps no team in the league gets the same kind of pass as they do after their history of Super Bowl championships that have followed a sleep-walking regular season. However, they have to put some wins together at some point, and Sunday’s game summed up their season so far as untimely turnovers, penalties, and dropped passes prevented any kind of offensive flow.
Let’s take a look at the performances that stood out on Sunday.
New York – Three Performances of Note
All Red Up Front
As has been the case throughout the majority of the first four games, the Giants’ offensive line struggled on Sunday, with no starter grading positively. Throw in negative grades from both tight ends and it’s all red for seven players up front. Left guard Kevin Boothe had played the best on the beleaguered line, and he was the only positive in pass protection at +0.2, but defenders continued to get inside him in the run game where he finished at -1.9. Center Jim Cordle flashed as a run blocker in his first career start, but surrendered two hurries and a sack which led to his -3.4 grade as a pass blocker. At left tackle, William Beatty was holding his own against Kansas City pass rusher Tamba Hali until a disastrous stretch starting in the late third quarter led to four late pressures and a sack on his way to a -3.5 day in pass protection. Finally at tight end, we’ve often warned of Brandon Myers’ struggles as both a run and pass blocker, and Sunday was no different as he graded at -1.9 and -1.1 respectively in those areas. Backup tight end Larry Donnell was not much better on his 10 snaps as he got handled in the running game by DE Tyson Jackson, and got stuck pass blocking Hali with 6:18 to go in the first with the expected result of Hali beating him for the pressure. When looking at the Giants’ offensive woes, look no further than the trenches as the entire line was controlled in this game.
Among the defensive positives for New York was cornerback Prince Amukamara (+5.3) who didn’t allow a catch into his coverage on four attempts. The Chiefs tried to run slants on him to no avail as he deflected quarterback Alex Smith’s pass with 3:10 to go in the second quarter before jumping in front for the interception at the 12:02 mark in the third. Smith really had no business throwing the pass, as Amukamara ran the slant better than wide receiver Dwayne Bowe on the play, and once the ball was in the air Amukamara out-muscled the physical Bowe to ensure the turnover. He showed well in the running game as well, as he attacked a pulling Branden Albert at the 12:31 mark of the third and not only re-directed the run, but also forced a holding call. It was a good overall effort for Amukamara, who finished at +3.9 in coverage and +1.1 against the run.
Ups and Downs for Eli
Many around the league have cited QB Eli Manning’s early-season penchant for the turnover as the main reason for the Giants’ slow start, and while his poor decision-making is certainly at fault, there’s a smidgen of good mixed in there as well. It’s fitting that his overall grade for the game landed at 0.0, while his season-long grade is a hair worse at -0.1, because his inconsistency deserves to land at just about average. If you’ve read us long enough, you know that we look well beyond the stats, and we’re certainly not about to look at interception totals and come to a conclusion based off such an arbitrary number. Instead, blame will be assigned, and in this game, Manning was certainly at fault for his interception with 6:44 to go in the third quarter. It was obvious that he was trying to throw the deep post, while WR Rueben Randle had other ideas, settling in front of the free safety, but regardless of the miscommunication, the pass was floated into the air and it took a fairly easy over-shoulder-catch from FS Quintin Demps to secure the interception. Of course for us, the missed interceptions are just as bad as the ones that actually get caught and Manning got away with a forced throw into the flat that was nearly picked off by LB Derrick Johnson with 4:57 to go in the second quarter.
As for the positive, Manning showed great placement on a number of deep balls, but dropped passes and late “wins” by cornerbacks prevented catches and subsequently skewed the ugly stat line of 18 of 37 for 217 yards. He put it right on WR Hakeem Nicks’ hands on a “go” route with 7:05 to go in the first, but a dropped pass and penalty negated any kind of big play and it was more of the same with 27 seconds to go in the third quarter as a well-thrown pass to Nicks fell incomplete after CB Sean Smith’s late arm-bar prevented a Nicks catch. So while Manning certainly shares some blame for putting the ball in harm’s way, many of his best throws are still hitting the ground, and such is early season 2013 for the New York Giants.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Efficiency from Smith
It’s far too often that we hear the term “game manager” thrown around, as it usually has more to do with a team’s defense and running game rather than a quarterback’s ability to actually manage the game. Alex Smith (+3.3) will certainly don the label if this season continues as is, and he certainly resembles the most common definition given the Chiefs’ recent reliance on defense and short passes — but to win in the NFL the QB must make some throws at some point, and Smith did just that on Sunday. While his aforementioned interception was a poor throw and he was saddled with another one on a drop from RB Jamaal Charles, it was his ability to move the chains in key situations that stood out. After completing only one pass beyond 10 yards in his previous game, Smith excelled at the intermediate (10-19 yard) level on Sunday, completing 8 of 12 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps the throw of the game was his pass to TE Kevin Brock at the 9:07 mark of the fourth quarter. With Kansas City on a potential game-sealing drive, a penalty had them backed up for a 1st-and-25. Smith immediately erased the deficit with a beautifully placed pass up the seam in between four Giants. The pass was a perfect microcosm of this game for the Giants, as every glimmer of hope seemed to disappear quickly, and Smith’s efficient afternoon was a big reason for their inability to mount a comeback.
Edge Rushers Close it Out
After spending about half a season trying to grab a lead a year ago, the Chiefs have become accustomed to playing from ahead and they’re well-equipped with outside linebackers Hali (+4.3) and Justin Houston (+3.1) rushing off the edge on must-pass situations. Houston has been a monster to this point in the season, and he got on board with four hurries on his 32 rushes to finish with a +1.2 pass rush grade. But it was Hali who played the role of closer, as he was seemingly in the backfield on every Giants’ pass from the late third quarter and beyond. He finished with 10 pressures on the day (2 sk, 8 hu) including a strip sack with 5:54 to go in the second quarter. The strip came on a beautifully designed blitz from the Chiefs that had offensive linemen getting out of their own way trying to find someone to block, while TE Bear Pascoe’s feeble attempt at slowing Hali resulted in a free run at Manning that culminated in Hali swatting the ball from his hands. Beatty took the brunt of the beating from Hali, as he was charged with five hurries, a sack, and a holding penalty. If the Chiefs continue to carry leads into the fourth quarter, keep an eye on Hali and Houston doing damage off the edge.
Holes in the Line
Despite the win, the Chiefs had issues of their own up front. LG Geoff Schwartz graded at -2.2 while C Rodney Hudson was even worse at -4.1 as both players struggled to open holes in the running game, while adding a few missteps in pass protection. The Chiefs encountered even more issues when rookie RT Eric Fisher went down with to injury and OT Donald Stephenson came in to play the final 38 snaps. Fisher has had his own struggles early in his career, but he notched a career-high +0.2 grade before Stephenson came in and struggled immediately, surrendering a hit and a hurry on his 20 pass rushes while grading at -3.4 in the run game. Fisher had been the weakness on an otherwise-stellar line to this point in the season, but he notched the only positive for the group on Sunday.
– Manning graded at +2.7 on throws beyond 20 yards and outside the numbers, but only completed 1 of 6 for 69 yards and a touchdown to WR Victor Cruz.
– Only one of Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles’ 18 carries went outside that tackles, as he went for a 2-yard loss on his one attempt off left end.
– Chiefs rookie CB Marcus Cooper played a career-high 57 snaps and graded at +1.8 in coverage. He was targeted six times, surrendering only one completion for 9 yards while deflecting two passes.
PFF Game Ball
Tamba Hali was a game-changer off the edge with his 10 pressures, including a strip sack, and he earns the game ball this week.
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