Not really to blame: QB Alex Smith and HC Andy Reid
Sports radio in the area seems to have made the conversation about QB Alex Smith and his limitations, but having now watched the game twice (I got a closer look yesterday), I think Smith was LESS the problem than just about every other unit on the roster.
But, let’s start with the big man. This was another game where Charles only got 10 carries, which is just another way of saying, “the Chiefs lost.” But, as I mentioned while excoriating the special teams, once the Chiefs were down 17-0 with the gap widening by the minute, I don’t mind that Reid got away from the run. At that point, his hands were tied. But I take issue with is the play-calling before things got to that point.
Sep 14, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) talks with head coach Andy Reid during the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Chiefs got the ball to start the game and their first series went: 1st down incomplete deep bomb to a covered Avery, 2nd down swing pass to RB De’Anthony Thomas for 5 yards, 3rd down incomplete pass to Bowe. This was the chance for the Chiefs to assert their identity and get a lead to defend like they are supposed to. Instead, Reid scripted the first few plays like it was the beginning of a two-minute offense.
On the second drive, Reid swung the other way, calling back-to-back runs for Charles that were stuffed as the line got zero push and Denver defenders swarmed through. On 3rd and 8, LG Mike McGlynn and LT Eric Fisher both somehow ended up on the ground in less than a second without slowing down three Denver pass rushers and Smith was eating turf before he could blink.
This pattern persisted throughout the day with absolutely no one on the offensive line wanting to block anybody. When the line held up for a short spurts, Smith shined, going 8-for-8 and two scrambles for 8 yards on two TD drives in the 2nd and 4th Quarters. That TD pass to Fasano was especially pretty as Smith threaded the needle through three defenders and hit him in the only spot he possibly could.
One could make the case that Smith shouldn’t have thrown the ball that was tipped by Denver DT Terrance Knighton and recovered by LB DeMarcus Ware. But, if you go back and look at the play, Smith had an open Bowe on a slant while the pocket was totally dissolving around him. There likely wouldn’t have been time to flee, so the choice was take the shot or take a sack at the KC 5-yard line. It was a no-win situation.
In the end, he still finished with a better completion percentage and generally comparable stats to Denver QB Peyton Manning. The quarterback position was not the difference in this game. The difference was that one team could stop the run, the other was a sieve. One team could protect its quarterback long enough to make throws, the other gave up 6 sacks, but could have given up 20. One team has NFL wide receivers, the other team has seven guys playing Edward Fortyhands.