Midway through the fourth quarter Monday night, the Giants were tied with the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. A few minutes of mistake-free football and a couple of big plays and the Giants could have pulled off a big prime time upset in Arrowhead Stadium.
But down the stretch, it was the Chiefs who made the winning plays, while the Giants countered with self-inflicted wounds. Harrison Butker kicked the second of his two fourth-quarter field goals, a 34-yarder with 1:07 remaining in the game, and Kansas City held on for a 20-17 victory. The Giants fell to 2-6, while the Chiefs improved to 4-4 with their third victory against an NFC East team.
"There was a lot of situational ball going back and forth," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "A lot of good coaching adjusts. A lot of good execution adjustments on the field. In terms of how all three phases played, until I see the tape with specific adjustments and changes, there was a lot positive tonight. Obviously, it was not enough in the long run."
It wasn't because the Giants hurt their own cause too many times in the last seven-plus minutes.
The first misstep occurred with the game knotted at 17-17. On his only touch of the game, Eli Penny caught a third-down, 16-yard pass to advance the ball to the Giants' 43-yard line, about 20 yards from Graham Gano's field goal range. But the usually undemonstrative Penny was penalized 15 yards for taunting, sending the ball back to the 28. The Giants got as far as the 42 but had to punt.
"Tough deal there," quarterback Daniel Jones said of Penny's penalty. "I didn't really have a great view of it. I think Eli was celebrating and I don't think he meant that at someone in particular. We'll look at it. We've got to be smart."
A holding penalty on the Chiefs' ensuing possession forced them into a first-and-20 at their 19. A defensive stand and the Giants would have plenty of time to score. They got the big play they needed on second down when Darnay Holmes intercepted a Patrick Mahomes pass at the Chiefs' 34. It was a potential game-turning play. But Oshane Ximines was offsides, a critical five-yard penalty that enabled Mahomes and Co. to retain possession of the ball.
"You just can't have penalties like that. Point blank," Judge said. "Or any penalties we had. That comes down to how we execute on the field and make sure we coach it better so that doesn't happen again. We have to do a better job all the way around. There were some situations that came up throughout the game that we have to make sure to eliminate to give ourselves a better chance of success."
"Looking back, that's never a play you want to give up," Ximines said. "I've been playing ball for a long time and jumping offsides is never acceptable. I'm just looking to move on from it and taking the next step.
"I'm not making no excuses or anything, but I thought they had some movement on the offensive side of the ball, but my opinion doesn't matter. It's what the ref sees. I was offsides, I'm accountable for that. It's never acceptable to do that. And it goes against everything we're building as a team. We're a team that doesn't like to make mistakes. That's something we really harp on. I'm looking to make up for that."
Asked if he apologized to Holmes, Ximines said, "Yeah, of course. I definitely did. I talked to him. It could have been his first pick on the season. That's honestly what pisses me off the most. That's my dog right there. It could have been a good play for him. We've got to move on from it."
The Chiefs did. On the next play, Mahomes connected with tight end Travis Kelce for a 14-yard gain and linebacker Tae Crowder was penalized 15 yards for grabbing his facemask. That replays seemed to show Crowder didn't actually get his hand on the facemask was immaterial. The call stood, and the 29 combined yards advanced Kansas City to the Giants' 47.
After Butker kicked the game-winner, the Giants took possession at their own 25 with no timeouts remaining, a difficult but not impossible set of circumstances to try to give Gano a shot to tie the game. But after a three-yard throw to Evan Engram, Jones – who had been sacked just once all night – was tackled trying to pass twice on the final three plays, including a six-yarder by Frank Clark on the final snap.
"I think the first play, we got something moving forward and got the ball out of bounds and we kind of stalled after that," Jones said. "We've got to get the ball out, get guys running and keep it moving."
Where did all those late mistakes come from?
"I don't have a blanket answer for that right there," Judge said. "I will look at each one individually and make sure that we just go ahead and make sure we have the techniques correct and have guys making the right decisions at that moment in time. We can't have those things come up."
The game began unusually as each team threw an interception on its first offensive series, a first for the Giants and their opponents since Sept. 24, 2006, in Seattle.
The Chiefs took the opening kickoff and advanced to the Giants' five-yard line before safety Julian Love dove in the end zone to intercept a Mahomes pass for Josh Gordon that was tipped and popped into the air.
But the Giants gave the ball right back two plays later, when Jones' pass for Darius Slayton was intercepted by linebacker Willie Gay, who returned the ball 13 yards to the Giants' 13.
"I should've kicked the ball out there," Jones said. "It was just a bad decision."
Kansas City made them pay for it when Mahomes found an open Tyreek Hill in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Judge eschewed an easy field goal on fourth down from the Chiefs' one-yard line and went for the touchdown, a decision that paid off when Kyle Rudolph caught Jones' pass for his first Giants touchdown and a 7-7 tie.
The Chiefs regained the lead on Derrick Gore's three-yard touchdown run before Gano's 23-yard field goal cut the Giants' deficit to 14-10 at halftime. The Giants faced a fourth-and-two at the five, but Judge chose to kick the ball.
"I thought points were at a premium," Judge said. "I thought the defense was playing good right there. If you think about most of the game, it was a short field we gave them that they scored on. They had the one drive they strung together. I was going to play to our defense a lot tonight. I had a lot of confidence in how they were playing as a unit."
After a scoreless third quarter, the Giants took a 17-14 lead on the second play of the fourth when Jones connected with Engram for a five-yard touchdown – the second of the game, and the season, by a Giants tight end.
Kansas City then drove 57 yards in 14 plays before Butker tied the score. The Giants had their chances to earn a significant victory. After the game, the logical question was, why didn't they?
"I think it was the mistakes we made, decisions, the turnover was a big deal," Jones said. "I think third down execution and keeping drives going and just being more consistent with that execution. I think we did some good things here and there but ultimately, not enough and not consistent enough."
View photos from the New York Giants' Week 8 matchup on Monday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs.