Right from the start — when an impressive 13-play Chiefs drive ended with another tipped-ball interception deep in the opponent’s territory — we were treated to a lackluster performance. The defense played well enough to keep Kansas City in front — but just barely. Luckily, the Giants turned out to be slightly worse than the Chiefs.
Despite winning the game, this was not a victory for a team who entered the season with higher expectations than squeaking out 20-17 nail-biter against the Giants.
Tyreek Hill: Early on, the game plan centered around getting Hill the ball in space and letting him use his speed to get yards after the catch. It looked like Hill was the only receiver that Mahomes trusted. Hill rewarded his quarterback’s faith in him, catching 12 of 18 targets for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Willie Gay Jr.: On the second defensive play of the game — after Mahomes threw his 10th interception of the season — Gay stepped in front of a Daniel Jones pass and got the ball right back for the offense. It was a great play at just the right time. Then on a third-and-short during New York’s first second-half drive, Jones decided to keep the ball on an option run — and Gay made an excellent tackle at the line of scrimmage, ending the drive.
Chris Jones: He kicked back inside for a lot of the night — and when he did, he looked like a wrecking ball, creating the consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback that the Chiefs’ defense has been missing this season. A couple of poorly-timed penalties in the second half nearly knocked him off this list, but on the final drive — when the team needed him most — Jones collapsed the pocket and got the sack.
Derrick Gore: In the second quarter — when Mahomes looked shaky and the offense was struggling to complete a pass — head coach Andy Reid turned to his training camp darling Derrick Gore, riding the running back for seven carries for 41 yards and a touchdown. But for some reason, Reid went back to Darrell Williams in the second half. I would have liked to see them give Gore more touches to see what he can really do.
Trey Smith: On Gore’s touchdown drive, Reid repeatedly called Smith’s number, running the ball to his side on multiple occasions. Smith looked the part of a bully all night, having his way with the New York front four; he might be the nastiest guard in the NFL. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Smith bailed out his quarterback when he hopped on the football after Mahomes fumbled it deep in Giants territory. This heads-up play allowed Kansas City to salvage three points on the drive.
Harrison Butker: Through the first three quarters, the team didn’t ask for much from its placekicker. But in the final six minutes, the Chiefs leaned on Butker for pair of crucial field goals — including the game-winner with just 1:07 left in the game.
Chiefs wide receivers not named Tyreek Hill: For the Chiefs offense to work as it’s designed, Kansas City has to find a true No. 2 wide receiver. So far, the Josh Gordon experiment has yielded few results — leaving the underperforming trio of Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman to try and carry the load. But time and time again, we have seen that aside from Hill, the receivers on the roster are just not good enough. Even against a bad Giants secondary on Monday night, this continued to be the case.
Daniel Sorensen: With 1:45 left in the first quarter, Jones heaved a poorly-thrown deep ball. Sorensen was in position to make the interception — but instead of coming up with the ball, he let it go through his hands. That allowed John Ross III to complete the 50-yard catch — and Sorensen drew a pass interference call. Then early in the fourth quarter, Evan Engram beat Sorensen on an out pattern for an easy touchdown. Unfortunately, Sorensen is the most consistent player on the Chiefs' defense: you can always count on him to not make the play.
Ben Niemann: The Giants knew whom to go after when they needed a completion. On fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard-line — with the Chiefs up by seven — the Giants went for it, leaking Kyle Rudolph into the flat and isolating Niemann in coverage. The linebacker looked lost — he was a solid five yards behind Rudolph when the tight end made the reception. It seems like every time Niemann makes a tackle, he is dragged for an extra three yards. Just once, I would like to see him drive somebody backward.
Marcus Kemp: A poor tackling effort and a little bit of bad luck saw Kemp get hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a blow to the head of Giants punt returner Kadarius Toney. It would have been a great play that pinned the Giants inside their own 5-yard-line — but instead, they got the ball with some breathing room near the 20. Earlier in the first half, he also failed to fall on a loose ball when the Giants muffed a punt.
La’Jarius Sneed: First, he was called for a late hit on Jones that added 15 yards to the end of a play. Then he was called for pass interference on a play where Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard was injured. Late in the third quarter, he had Toney dead to rights — but he slipped and fell, allowing the wideout to pick up 11 yards and a first down. I don’t know what shoes he was wearing, but it looked like he needed new cleats all night; he just couldn’t stay on his feet.
Patrick Mahomes: The quarterback started the game by throwing another ill-advised interception deep in the red zone. Early on. it looked like he was content to take the underneath routes and pick apart the Giants defense — but as the first half wore on, Mahomes grew timid and indecisive. He looked like a quarterback who does not trust his eyes and is afraid of making mistakes. You don’t need to look at the box score to know that Mahomes isn’t right; at the moment, anyone can see that his game is off. Midway through the fourth quarter, Mahomes fumbled the ball on fourth-and-9. Thankfully, Trey Smith bailed him out.
Tyrann Mathieu: After the week Mathieu had in the media, he needed to come out and have a good game to show people that he is as good as he says he is. Instead, Mathieu looked soft in zone coverage and was a step late to the ball. When his number was called to blitz the quarterback, he failed to get home. It wasn’t that Mathieu played poorly; it was just that he needed to play well. Unfortunately, his performance was quite forgettable.
Travis Kelce: The future Hall of Fame tight end had a quiet night from a receiving standpoint, catching just four passes for 27 yards. His most memorable moment came in the third quarter, when he fumbled the ball while fighting for extra yards. Turnovers continue to haunt the biggest names on the Chiefs roster.