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Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs, September 23, 2001: Two of the toughest places to play in the NFL are Denver and Kansas City. In fact, on an ominous note, the last NFC East team to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City was the Giants – but that came 22 years ago. The Chiefs, like the Giants, are desperate for a win since they lost their opening game to the rival Raiders in heart-breaking fashion in overtime.

But aside from all of that, the big challenge for the Giants is to somehow find an emotional reserve gas tank for this game. No other team except for the Jets went through what the Giants went through last week. Many of the players live in sight of where the World Trade Center stood and the Giants practice right across the river from that spot. Many people who live in their neighborhoods were directly impacted by the tragedy. And it was the Giants who got a first hand look at the devastation. They also visited fire houses and police stations who had men and women killed in the accident, and met with children who had lost their fathers or mothers. How jumpy were they? At one point last week a number of players originally refused to return to the practice bubble after a fire alarm went off for a second time. When they did practice, the team was noticeably somber (though Thursday’s practice was more upbeat). Now the Chiefs plan an extended, emotional opening ceremony. These are not good signs. Football is a game based on emotion and while it is easy for us arm chair quarterbacks to say “Win one for the City!”, it often doesn’t work that way. The emotional gas tanks of the Giant players must be near empty.

Giants on Offense: The key is for Head Coach Jim Fassel and Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton to develop a workable strategy that allows both halfbacks Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber to get into the flow of a game. Last week, Ron Dayne ran well, but the Giants only let him touch the ball six times. Meanwhile, aside from one or two runs, Tiki looked rusty. Barber is the game-breaker and he needs his touches, but if Dayne is to be truly effective, he must get to carry the ball at least 15 times in a game.

The offensive line must be more consistent run and pass blocking this week. They were too up-and-down against Denver. The Chiefs’ defensive ends, LDE Eric Hicks and RDE Duane Clemons are both good pass rushers who sometimes have problems defending the run. Hicks was a pleasant surprise for Kansas City last year with 14 sacks. He faces Luke Petitgout. Inside, Ron Stone and Glenn Parker scare off against defensive tackles John Browning and Derrick Ransom.

Weakside linebacker Donnie Edwards can cover and blitz. Giants’ fans may remember MLB Marvcus Patton from his days as a Redskin. He’s a tough player who is beginning to slow down. Lew Bush struggled last season in attempting to replace Derrick Thomas.

The corners for the Chiefs, Ray Crockett and Eric Warfield, are only so-so. Amani Toomer and the rest of the receiving corps should be able to do some damage here. FS Jerome Woods however is a fine player who can hit. He’s the glue in the secondary. SS Greg Wesley is another big hitter. However, his over-aggressiveness can be taken advantage of.

Giants on Defense: The Giants were embarrassed last week in giving up almost 500 yards of offense. The pass rush was almost invisible and the linebackers were rarely heard from. There were all kinds of trouble covering the receivers. By the fourth quarter, the run defense became porous.

First and foremost, DE Kenny Holmes and DT Cornelius Griffin need to get it in gear. Holmes was most disappointing last week as a pass rusher. He faces 1999 first rounder LT John Tait, a talented player. Griffin also faces a tough task in facing RG Will Shields – one of the very best guards in all of football. Last week, Griffin’s run defense was found wanting. Thus, the Giants need big games out of Michael Strahan (who will be matched up against 1998 first rounder Victor Riley) and DT Keith Hamilton (versus LG Marcus Spears). OC Casey Wiegmann rounds out this very big and very talented unit.

The Chiefs don’t really have a feature running back and the Giants should be able to shut down their running game provided the defensive line and linebackers show up this week. Jessie Armstead, Mike Barrow, and Brandon Short need to be much more active and make more plays than they did against the Broncos. They also need to do a good job in coverage against the running backs as the Chiefs like to throw underneath the coverage. Priest Holmes is a tough runner who has always given the Giants problems (when he was with Baltimore). Tony Richardson is a quality fullback.

Of course the big question is how the Giants will cover Tony Gonzalez – the best receiving tight end in the game and a true difference maker. It would be asking too much to have Short cover him and Barrow would even probably have his hands full. I would suspect that these two would provide double-team support to Sam Garnes or Shaun Williams on Gonzalez. The Giants also need to keep an eye on TE Mikhael Ricks, a converted wide receiver.

When the Chiefs throw the ball farther down the field, their targets may be rookie Marvin Minnis and Chris Thomas. Derrick Alexander may not play due to an Achilles injury. Ricks may also be shifted back to receiver for this game. The return of Jason Sehorn will bolster the secondary, but he Chiefs will try to take advantage of Will Allen, the most likely starter on the left side.

Aside from Gonzalez, the big worry for New York is QB Trent Green. Green has a history of killing the Giants when he played for the Redskins and Rams. He does not have a strong arm and is not a big guy, but he is a smart, accurate thrower who can run the football. The Giants need to get pressure on him and force him to make mistakes.

Giants on Special Teams: Rodney Williams performed at a Pro Bowl level in Denver. Can he keep it up? Tiki Barber and Ron Dixon need to do a better job on returns (though Kansas City has one of the better punters in the league – Dan Stryzinski). Kick and punt coverage on the Giants remains a concern.

Series History: Regular Season – Giants lead series 7-2.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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