Film Room: Alex Smith behind a decent O-Line


The Kansas City Chiefs’ win last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers was somewhat bittersweet, and the bitterness had nothing to do with draft position.

When watching the game on Sunday, I felt as though for the first time since the Denver Broncos game, I was seeing the version of the Chiefs I had been promised all offseason and preseason: a defense filled with playmakers at every level that made the big play when it mattered most, and an efficient offense that sustained time-chewing scoring drives but could also stretch the field more effectively than the previous two seasons. That was the Chiefs team I saw last week, and it was about time they showed up!

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Speaking of showing up, how about Eric Fisher and company? Those five guys put together an all-around solid game upfront and looked like an offensive line that actually belonged in the NFL. And the person who benefited the most from last week’s improvement upfront? Alex Smith.

The numbers tell you Alex Smith had a good game, 66 percent of passes completed, 251 yards, a touchdown, and a QB rating of 100 (OK, technically 99.9). By now, we are well aware that numbers can be misleading, but in this case they reflect exactly what the film shows – Alex Smith had a good game. Let’s take a look at what exactly a good game from Alex Smith looks like.

Clean Pockets = Money Throws

First and foremost, when you give Smith time and a fairly clean pocket on a consistent basis, the man executes Andy Reid’s offense very well. See for yourself:

Just look at him progress through his reads, stay calm, and deliver the ball on target.

3rd & 8? No problem.

Gets a clean pocket and makes a throw that leads Kelce perfectly so he can convert the third down.

Now we come to my favorite example of what Smith can do when not being forced to scramble for his life on every play for an entire game.

That is an absolutely perfect throw by Smith. He puts it up high where Kelce can get it, but not so high that Kelce isn’t able to protect himself from a potentially bone-crushing hit the safety is looking to lay on him. Touch, accuracy, timing, it’s all there. I can watch that throw all day!

Now I’m not trying to say these throws make Smith an elite quarterback, because they don’t. Good NFL quarterbacks are able to make these throws and that is the point I’m trying to make – when given adequate protection, Alex Smith looked like a good NFL quarterback .

Inconsistent Ball Placement

A common, yet fair, criticism of Smith is he doesn’t consistently put the ball in an ideal spot for the receiver. A receiver will have created separation on their route, but Smith’s throw will force the receiver to adjust their route preventing YAC opportunities, or leave the receiver vulnerable to a big hit. We’ve also seen times where Smith’s ball placement is excellent – the Maclin catch and run versus the Bengals or the third GIF above are two examples – and enables our weapons to show what they can do in space.

Against the Steelers, we saw examples of both (I know, shocking considering the header just a few lines above).

Remember when I praised Smith for protecting Kelce on that deep pass down the middle of the field? Well he kind of did the opposite here to Wilson. After watching that play a few times, it is clear that the pass didn’t need as much loft as Smith put on it. If Smith gets that ball down a few inches, Albert Wilson doesn’t take as big of a hit as he did and has a much better shot at hanging on to the ball.

This was the very next throw on that drive. While the pass was completed for a moderate gain to bring up a more manageable third down, the placement of the pass eliminated any chance DAT had at making something happen with the ball in his hands. When you look at Thomas running his route, you’ll notice he has a step on his man when he makes his break. The all 22 view makes it a little easier to spot:

As soon as the throw is made, you can clearly see Thomas is forced to break stride and slowdown in order to make the catch. If that ball is placed three inches in front of him, he has the ball in space which is a dangerous proposition for any defense. Instead, the ball is placed right on him and allows the defender to catch up and make the tackle.

At this point in his career, Smith’s ball placement issues aren’t going anywhere, and we just have to accept that. Some passes will put the wide receiver in a tough position or eliminate potential YAC, others like the two Kelce passes above will be right on the money – such is the plight of having Alex Smith as your quarterback…

Overall, this is exactly the type of game you expect out of Alex Smith. Nothing flashy, just solid quarterbacking sprinkled with just a few missed opportunities here and there. It is crucial that both the offensive line and Alex Smith build on this performance in London if this team is to have even the slightest hope of turning this season around.

I leave you with the Chiefs Film Room GIF of the week (because there was no way I was not finding a way to include this epicness).