Flanny: Another way Chiefs can beat you? Special teams
SEP 29, 2013 5:53p ET
CHIEFS SPECIAL TEAMS ARE, YEP, SPECIAL
Forget the fact that the Chiefs had their second punt blocked this season. The punt blocked in the first half Sunday was merely tipped, and as it turned out, still traveled 30 yards and didn't cost the Chiefs any points.
Great play from the special teams and, more specifically, a dynamic return game -- the kind Chiefs fans envisioned when special teams guru Dave Toub was added to the coaching staff -- were there for all to see Sunday when Dexter McCluster took off on an electrifying 89-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
It was the type of exhilarating return Chiefs fans saw repeatedly during the preseason, where fans got their first glimpse of the magic of Toub, whose special teams in Chicago returned 22 punts or kicks for scores from 2004-2012.
"When we needed Dex, he came through," wide receiver Dwayne Bowe said. "We were just talking on the sideline, 'Hey, Dex, get us one, man.' And he did.
"He's like a human joystick part 2. We were actually on the sideline moving with him as he was juking and making defenders miss. He's a heck of a player."
McCluster grabbed the punt at the 11, made a breathtaking spin move at the 15, made another spin move near midfield and then was gone.
It was the Chiefs' first punt return for a touchdown since McCluster went 94 yards for a score in the 2010 season opener against San Diego.
"I remember that because it was my rookie year," McCluster said. "It's nice to get one again.
"As a punt returner, you want to go out there, catch the ball and secure it. You have to have courage and trust the guys in front of you. I got some great blocks today and my instincts kicked in."
The return certainly was a game changer, giving the Chiefs some much-needed separation and a 17-7 lead. The Chiefs never looked back and scored two more touchdowns.
"I think it really got the crowd back into it," McCluster said. "And it gave us some momentum. I think we'll get some more (return scores)."
CHIEFS CAN SALSA, TOO
Yep, you probably noticed that McCluster and Bowe each celebrated touchdowns with their own version of salsa dancing, which happens to be the touchdown dance of Giants wideout Victor Cruz.
Cruz, in fact, got a chance to salsa after scoring on a 69-yard catch and run in the second quarter.
McCluster did his own salsa after his punt return, and Bowe did the same after grabbing a 34-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith in the fourth quarter.
"Just having a little fun with (Cruz)," McCluster said. “He’s a great athlete. Normally my touchdown dance is the 'Florida Juke.'"
"I just did a little one," Bowe added. "I was too tired to do a big (salsa dance)."
RED FLAG OF THE DAY
McCluster's punt return certainly changed the game, but so did a huge series of events right before it. The Giants had been facing a third-and-17 at their own 14 and appeared to have made the conversion on a 17-yard toss from Eli Manning to Cruz.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid, though, threw his red flag and challenged the spot. Cruz indeed came down about a half-yard short of the first-down marker, and replay officials confirmed it. Credit Chiefs coaches in the booth with getting word down to Reid in time for him to get the red flag out.
The Giants were forced to punt and we all know what happened next.
"That was a big swing right there," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "And that obviously was the difference in the game. We fell a little short and they took the momentum from there."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin agreed that the challenge turned the game.
"And if it hadn't been on the 30-yard line, I would have gone for it on fourth down," Coughlin said. "But I'd had gone for it and hadn't made it at that point of the game, that would have been a foolish error. So we punted the ball and he punted it right down the middle of the field and, of course, back it came."
CHIEFS CAN SURVIVE TURNOVERS
The prevailing wisdom had been that the only reason the Chiefs were 3-0 was that the Chiefs hadn't turned the ball over yet.
Well, that changedwhen the Chiefs lost one fumble and quarterback Alex Smith had two picks. Didn't matter.
The Chiefs forced three fumbles, recovered two and also came up with a pick.
Smith wasn't discouraged by his interceptions.
"In both cases they were one-on-one situations," Smith said. "It's not like I was throwing into a town meeting. There was probably a little miscommunication on both interceptions but those are things we will correct."
The Chiefs, by the way, are still plus-9 in the turnover differential through four games.
In the Chiefs' past three wins, the offense has come through with game-clinching drives when the team needed it most -- in the fourth quarter.
was no different. With the game still in question at 17-7, the Chiefs started the fourth quarter on their own 20.
Smith marched the Chiefs 80 yards in nine minutes and 17 seconds, and he capped it with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jamaal Charles. That made it 24-7, sealing the deal.
"For me, the energy level has been really high in the fourth quarter in the last three games," Smith said. "I get pretty jacked up at the end. When we're in the huddle, you can feel the energy."
Bowe gives much of the credit to Smith, who rushed seven times for 37 yards and threw for 288 yards.
"He's so tough and he takes a lot of hits out there," Bowe said. "He gets back up every time. We all have confidence in him."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.