KANSAS CITY, Mo. Eric Berry credits Kansas City's 4-0 start to the "family feeling" that held everyone together during the hapless 2-14 season of 2012.
Maybe so. But after the Chiefs pounded the winless New York Giants 31-7 on Sunday, it's obvious that importing a cool, savvy quarterback from San Francisco and bringing in a smart, no-nonsense coach from Philadelphia also had a lot to do with a rags-to-riches transformation.
Even in a league known for quick turnarounds and breathtaking free-falls, this seems preposterous.
Alex Smith, who lost his job last year with the 49ers, threw three touchdown passes, and Dexter McCluster returned a punt 89 yards for a score as the Chiefs joined the 1980 Detroit Lions as the only teams in modern league history to win two or fewer games one season, then rocket to a 4-0 start the next.
"To be honest, all we talked about all offseason was being 1-0," Smith said. "Just get the first one."
The Giants, proud champions of four Super Bowls, are 0-4 for the first time since 1987.
"It is disappointing," said quarterback Eli Manning, who has been operating all season behind a patchwork offensive line. "The defense got us some turnovers, and we weren't able to do anything with it. We are just not playing very well offensively."
The injury-ravaged Giants trailed only 17-7 after three quarters.
"This is a situation we've got to fix," Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks said. "We know what we're capable of doing."
Smith hit touchdown passes of 4, 2 and 35 yards and was 24 for 41 for 288 yards. He threw two interceptions, and the Chiefs lost a fumble for their first turnovers in what could be turning into a magical season under first-year coach Andy Reid.
"I know they'll battle," said Reid, who spent the previous 14 seasons coaching the Eagles. "That's what I know. There are a lot of things I don't know, but I do know this: We're a tough bunch."
Manning was 18 for 37 for 217 yards and one touchdown. The Chiefs sacked him three times and intercepted him once.
All of a sudden, the misery of 2012 that cost coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli their jobs seems a distant memory.
"We just kept working, kept sticking together," Berry said. "We know things don't always go your way. But you've got to be able to stick together through tough times, in life, period. We just stuck together, and I feel like that was the foundation that was built for us to do what we're doing now. But we've still got a lot of work to do."
Late in the first quarter, Smith hit Sean McGrath, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe for gains of 12, 17 and 14 yards on successive plays.
McGrath, the heavily bearded tight end and Seattle Seahawks castoff, caught Smith's 5-yard touchdown pass to cap the 11-play, 98-yard drive.
The drive took 5 minutes, 38 seconds. To answer, Manning needed only 54 seconds as he hit Victor Cruz for a long touchdown
That was the Giants' lone highlight.
"I continue to believe that we still can be good," said Nicks, who dropped three passes. "It's still early in the season. I believe we can fix this, and I think we will fix this."