Giants, Steelers should give Chiefs fans hope

OK, so it happened. The tough team knocked off the explosive team. Herm Edwards probably wasn't watching, but you kind of wish he was. Likely, he would have enjoyed watching the New York Giants ruin perfection in beating the New England Patriots.

As I watched New York's savage pass rush violently dismantle New England's offense Sunday evening, the thought occurred that perhaps the Chiefs could eventually do the same – build a defense that sends elite passing offenses home with their imperfect tails tucked between their legs. The Giants won Super Bowl XLII largely because of Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Kawika Mitchell and Jay Alford.

Umenyiora made New England's Matt Light, an All-Pro lineman and excellent pass protector, look like Jordan Black, constantly beating the left tackle around the edge and hounding Tom Brady all evening. Strahan, Tuck, Mitchell and Alford combined for five sacks and hit Brady approximately 15 times. The best quarterback in the league was roughed up and off-target throughout the game.

With Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Alfonso Boone and Derrick Johnson, the Chiefs already have four players who can contribute to such a scheme. If they add USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis or Virginia defensive end Chris Long in April's draft, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham will have all the chess pieces he needs to checkmate an attack such as New England's.

Drafting a third end with starter potential wouldn't be a waste of a first-round pick, either, especially considering Hali's injury problems. The Giants played Strahan, Umenyiora and Tuck on passing downs together often against the Patriots.

Assembling such a talent-laden pack of defenders wouldn't be the final piece of KC's Super Bowl puzzle, however. It's worth noting that for all their defensive success Sunday night, the Giants' defense got tired and let the Patriots take a fourth-quarter lead. New York's offense had to pick up the slack and win the game with a clutch drive.

And the Giants' first touchdown came with almost zero contributions from the ground game. The message is clear – you need an effective passing game to win the big one in this league. The Chiefs will have to develop one to complement their defense. The running game should be a secondary concern.

But forget defensive talent, offensive schemes and philosophy. The Giants can give the Chiefs and their fans hope for other reasons. New York did not win the NFC East division this season. They entered the playoffs as a wildcard at 10-6 and had to win three games on the road to qualify for the championship. They did just that, and still had enough left in the tank to claim the Lombardi.

That's been the exception to the rule according to NFL history. The Patriots built a dynasty because they consistently won the AFC East division and gained a high seed in the playoffs. The same rings true for most Super Bowl champions.

But after the Giants took another path, along with the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, it means almost any team is capable of replicating the journey with the right mix of talent and coaching. Two of the last three Super Bowl champions didn't win their division, and all three played in the wild-card round. It's no fluke.

This is particularly important when you consider the situation in Kansas City. At the beginning of the season, when the Chiefs started 0-2 for the second consecutive year, I cited slow starts as one of Herm Edwards' biggest weaknesses. Because of that fact, it followed that the Chiefs might never win a division championship under Edwards, which would make winning it all nearly impossible.

The Giants have shown us otherwise. Whether the Chiefs can follow suit is a huge question mark, but at least we now know it can be done.

We also know that even if your quarterback turns the ball over 27 times in the regular season, he's capable of getting the monkey off his back in the postseason. That's exactly what Eli Manning (now a Super Bowl MVP) did over the last month, which means Chiefs fans should have all the patience in the world with Brodie Croyle.

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