The resurgent Kansas City Chiefs lead the NFL in turnover differential and sacks, and have relied upon an effective running game to get off to their second 3-0 start in a decade. They’ve also handled the NFC East so far, beating teams from that division in each of the last two weeks.
None of that appears to be good news for the winless New York Giants, who are coming off their worst performance under coach Tom Coughlin.
The Chiefs look to keep rolling when they face the desperate Giants on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Kansas City sacked Michael Vick six times, had five takeaways and rushed for 146 yards in a 26-16 win at Philadelphia last Thursday that marked a homecoming for coach Andy Reid, the Eagles’ coach from 1999-2012.
The Chiefs have an NFL-best plus-nine turnover differential. They had a league-worst minus-24 mark last season.
“Points and turnovers are the two most important things that you have as a football team,” Reid said. “If you turn the ball over you’re losing football games, and if your takeaway ratio is high then normally you’re winning. Those are two important stat points.”
So is Kansas City’s sack total of 15, with 7 1/2 of those coming from linebacker Justin Houston — he had 4 1/2 last week — to lead the league. The Chiefs managed 27 sacks for all of 2012.
Kansas City is also allowing only 309.0 yards per game, tied for eighth in the NFL.
“I think confidence starts from within,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “If you’re not confident in the way you prepare and work and study, I don’t know what to say about you. But our confidence started back in OTAs and minicamps. We knew we’ve had something special here for a long time.”
Running back Jamaal Charles is coming off his best game of the season, rushing for 92 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries last week.
The Chiefs’ encouraging numbers don’t seem promising for a New York team that’s done hardly anything well during its 0-3 start. The Giants are tops in the league with 13 turnovers, have allowed 11 sacks, are last in the NFL in rushing at 44.3 yards per game and are giving up an average of 129.3 yards on the ground.
They turned in the worst performance of Coughlin’s 10-year tenure last week in a stunning 38-0 loss to Carolina, which came in winless. Eli Manning was sacked seven times and hit numerous others, and the Giants were outgained 402-150.
“We have to play better,” Manning said. “We have to have greater energy, greater enthusiasm, play better, better technique, decision making. There are some plays out there that we left on the field, and sometimes we just got flat-out beat. It’s not a big surprise what we have to do to fix it. We just have to go out there and play better football.”
That may have to start with the banged-up and patchwork offensive line, which has been almost completely ineffective so far. Starters David Baas and Chris Snee are battling health issues, but there may be little the club can do in terms of personnel changes.
Some rare Giants discord also surfaced during the week, with receiver Hakeem Nicks complaining about not being able to throw the ball to himself. Coughlin subsequently criticized him for the comment.
“Once you get to pointing the finger, you get that cancer in the locker room like that, it can fall apart easy,” defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “You can’t do that. This is a team game. We come into every week, every game, as a team, we leave every game as a team. We win or lose as a team together.”
Kansas City may also be benefiting from Reid’s familiarity with his former NFC East foes. The Chiefs defeated Dallas in Week 2, and Reid won seven of the last nine matchups with the Giants while with the Eagles.
“There is no time to relax on what you have done, you just have to continue to build and get better,” Reid told the team’s official website. “We have so many things that we can get better at. … It’s crazy, and so, we are going to do that.”
One of those areas is pass protection, which could be key with the Giants looking to get their usually vaunted pass rush going this week. New York, tied for last in the league with three sacks, will be facing a Kansas City club that’s allowed Alex Smith to be sacked 10 times, among the most in the NFL.
The Chiefs haven’t started 4-0 since opening with nine straight victories in 2003. The Giants last dropped their first four games during an 0-5 start to 1987.
New York has won four straight in the series and took the last meeting 27-16 at Arrowhead on Oct. 4, 2009.