I make no secret of the fact that I’ve often been displeased with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in 2013. I’ve criticized him for errant throws, for failing to make decisions quickly in key situations, and for sometimes being overly averse to throwing the football down the field. In this very column, I’ve made him largely responsible for the Chiefs’ early offensive woes. While I won’t apologize for every well-reasoned criticism of Smith, I am prepared to expend the same amount of energy trying to convince you that he’s no longer part of Kansas City’s problem.
Since Kansas City returned from their Week 10 bye, Alex Smith has been a completely different quarterback. He threw just nine touchdowns through the first nine games of the regular season. Over the past four, he’s thrown another nine touchdowns. In fact, he has a passer rating of 94 since Week 11. He’s also has a completion rate of 60% over that stretch.
Less apparent and perhaps to much less fanfare, he’s also been more inclined to stand tall in the pocket. During Kansas City’s nine-game winning streak, he scrambled at least three times per game. Against the Chargers and Redskins, he only left the pocket twice. Smith has made a conscious decision to become a bigger part of this offense. Perhaps he’s tired of being called a “game manager”? Maybe he’s finally settled into the groove and feels comfortable with his supporting cast? It could also be the realization that the stakes are higher now.
Whatever Smith’s reasons are for raising his level of play, it’s clear that he has. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but he hasn’t been sacked in three weeks. Weeks 13 and 14 are the first two of the season where Smith hasn’t been dumped. I should put that into perspective. You have to go all the way back to Week 5 of the 2012 season to find the last game where Smith attempted more than one pass and was not sacked.
Make no mistake, improved play along the offensive line has helped, but I think we’re seeing a more decisive and comfortable quarterback on the field. Alex Smith has also stood firmly in the pocket, in the face of pressure, and delivered the ball accurately. Add those two things to fewer poor throws and the shots Smith has taken down the field, and I think it’s a new day for the Chiefs’ eight-year veteran.
If Smith can continue to play this way into the postseason, I think it could be time to consider extending his contract. He’s peaking at just the right time and it could help this football team make noise in January. There’s good reason to have confidence in a quarterback who plays this style of football. Winning in the NFL playoffs requires a quarterback with a steady hand that won’t turn the football over and cost you a game. Smith has only played two career postseason games, but he didn’t throw an interception in either contest.
Over the past three weeks, the Chiefs have scored 12 offensive touchdowns. Alex Smith is directly responsible for more than half of them (7). It’s no coincidence that the Chiefs have averaged 32 points per game since returning from the bye week. If the trend of Smith’s increased productivity continues, Kansas City will have a real shot at keeping pace with the Colts and Chargers and maybe running table. I think it’s a bit too late for them to re-position themselves as the AFC’s #1 seed, but there are major benefits to entering the postseason tournament with a hot hand.
I’ll be watching Smith closely for the rest of the season. The Chiefs can’t afford to take a step back this week in Oakland. The lowly Raiders are 23rd in the league in pass defense and are a middling defense in terms of getting to the quarterback (they have 32 sacks on the season). I’m interested to see if Smith can take advantage of them on Sunday afternoon. Dwayne Bowe is coming off of a season-high 69-yard receiving day last week. It will be important to keep him dialed in and to maintain the momentum he and Smith have built throughout the year.
What say you, Addicts? Are you happy with the recent brand of football that Alex Smith’s been playing? Is it crazy that I’m beginning to think a contract extension might be in order for him? Use the comment section below to weigh in on the topic. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.
Until next time, Addicts!