I’m not suggesting that there’s a simple remedy, that Alex Smith must throw the ball deep down the field for the Chiefs to be successful. I’m saying that Alex Smith must do his part to make sure the passing offense produces explosive plays. Part of that is… releasing the ball on time or in a timely manner… placing the ball in the best spot for the receiver to maximize his leverage against the defender… not giving up on a receiver (and the receiver not giving up on him) once he’s flushed from the pocket… running to “backfield daylight” (instead of turning it up field) and allowing for his downfield receivers to come open (and for them to work their secondary patterns, assuming the Chiefs have secondary patterns for their receivers)… making sure his short passes get up and over the outstretched arms of defenders (and throwing into clear passing lanes)… and yes… taking more chances downfield especially early in games.
That last one is critical… even if it’s not successful, because they have to set a tone for their offense, to force the defense to stay back and be ready for the long ball in any event.
Alex Smith must also make sure he finds, and throws to, the open receiver. Here’s an example of that. The Chiefs were down near the goal line and Smith had missed out on spotting Travis Kelce who was wide open in the back of the end zone.
"“Smith threw to Jamaal Charles short of the end zone on the next play. Charles was tackled almost immediately, fumbled and the Broncos recovered, ending the Chiefs’ scoring threat. That play wouldn’t have been necessary had Smith looked for an open Kelce.”"
As important as finding the open man is, establishing the downfield “threat” is equally so.
Opposing defenses must feel the real threat of a downfield passing game and not the “I’m going to pretend like we can go downfield”… and yes, that threat comes mainly from the quarterback. Does anyone doubt that Drew Brees can throw the ball deep? No doubt about it. It certainly helps if you set up a pattern of going deep game after game so that when you do it even once in a game, successful or not, then defenses will be back on their heels. That’s what Brees does every game.
While Alex Smith antagonists may use what I’ve said here to say, “Didn’t you just prove he’s a bad quarterback?” I would say no… many of the decisions Alex Smith has been making… he’s had to make those decisions. His hands have been tied to a large degree.
One reason his hand has been forced is… the offensive line (I know, same ‘ol, same ‘ol story)… but the other reason is… Andy Reid’s scheming and play calling, especially in the Denver game.
It should be pointed out, as many have already done… Kansas City came close to winning that game. That’s important here because you have to dance with the one who got you to the ball and that would be Mr. Andy Reid. Yes, I know, John Dorsey is a big reason this team is better but when game time rolls around… Andy Reid is a major reason this team is 21-13 since his arrival. So, when Andy Reid calls a quick out to Jeremy Maclin near the goal line, it’s understandable that Alex Smith wanted to get the ball out fast instead of looking around for an open Kelce.
Also, and I bare my soul by saying this, I love me some Andy Reid offense… especially when utilized correctly with the current Chiefs personnel.
So, the hot topic is… why isn’t the passing game working the way he’s designed it to work. Training camp just ended a few weeks ago and all those hopes and dreams for a dynamic… uncoverable… passing attack, seem to be out the window right now.
I’ve mentioned before that I believe the Chiefs need another number one wide receiver on par with Jeremy Maclin. Right now, it’s still too, too easy for high quality defenses like Denver’s to double up on Jmac and say to the rest of the Chiefs wideouts, “Go ahead, just try to best us.” I don’t believe they have anyone who can do that besides Travis Kelce and he’s got a total of 10 catches this year, projecting to 80 on the season (he had 67 catches in 2014 so this is not exactly the improvement anyone was hoping for). While that’s good… it’s not great, and that’s what the Chiefs need right now… someone else to be great in the receiving department. Plus, Kelce should never be confused for an outside threat.
Next: Who’s getting the job done and who’s not?