The Kansas City Chiefs are amazingly enough 6-0 so far this season. In most scenarios, the starting quarterback of a 6-0 team would be hailed as a hero by the the fan base. In the case of the Chiefs, fans are thrilled by the results but wary of the what the offensive numbers show.
Even though quarterbacks are always in the spotlight, this is a special case. Alex Smith‘s stats are underwhelming at best, and the Chiefs have been winning because a ferocious defense. Smith has been managing the offense pretty well but everyone seems a little nervous.
Since Kansas City is playing a team with a staunch pass defense, KC Kingdom has decided to shine the spotlight this week directly on quarterback Alex Smith.
Smith is receiving some heat following his less than stellar performance this past Sunday in the 24-7 victory over hated rivals, the Oakland Raiders. He completed less than 50% of his pass attempts (14-31), threw for only 128 yards, and had no touchdowns in the defense-driven win. He only averaged 4.13 yards per pass attempt, an absolutely abysmal mark.
For the season, Smith has completed just 56.5 % of his pass attempts, good for 29th in the NFL, behind such studs like Chad Henne, Brian Hoyer, and Christian Ponder. His average yards per attempt sits at 6.16, ranked 32nd out of 35 qualified quarterbacks. Only Josh Freeman, Blaine Gabbert, and Mike Glennon are below him.
He is ranked 22nd in Quarterback Rating at 79.8. (On a side note, this number is slightly ahead on Tom Brady, whose stats are almost identical to Smith’s across the board, except in sheer completions and attempts. Yet, they are 11-1 combined.) All in all, Alex Smith has not been impressive from a statistical point of view.
Except the Kansas City Chiefs, under his direction, are 6-0. Much of this can be credited to an aggressive, pressuring defense with fine secondary players. In fact, most of the credit can be directed toward the defense. There is one small stat though, that shows how valuable Smith has been to the Chiefs. He only has 3 turnovers, all interceptions. Compare that to the 15 turnovers Matt Cassel had last season in 9 games. Fifteen!
For better or worse, Alex Smith takes care of the ball. Not only has he not thrown interceptions but he has not lost a fumble. He has ran the ball 33 times, and been sacked 16 times, yet hasn’t lost a fumble. He is taking care of the ball. Period.
Yes, we would like to see the ball thrown down the field more. Yes, we would like to see that average per attempt be much higher. Would we trade those things for more interceptions and and losses? No…? Didn’t think so.
Alex Smith is not a gunslinger. He is not going to try a zip one into blanketed receiver. It just isn’t in his make up. On a team with a dominating defense, that is all right. All Alex Smith has to do is keep the Chiefs in the game, which he has done each and every time out, and trust his defense to hold the opponents. It has worked six times thus far.
If Smith had a different mentality, maybe he turns the ball over a couple of times in a disadvantageous part of the field, and that leads to the opponent getting a touchdown. Does that help? Nope!
There will come a time at some point in this season where the Chiefs will lose a game because Smith can’t get the ball down field with aplomb. It is going to happen, probably a couple of times, and the haters are going to jump off the bandwagon.
He does have some weaknesses in his game but right now, he is exactly what the Chiefs need – a game manager. Keep the game close, get the ball to Jamaal Charles, and don’t turn the ball. Let the defense, which has so many more play makers, make a play. He has been nearly perfect in the role thus far.
Still, he will have to play much better this week. Yes, the Houston Texans are struggling right now, but they are a very dangerous team with the best pass defense in the NFL. The Texans only give up 131 passing yards a game, 55 fewer yards a game than the next best defense. Overall, they allow just 253 yards, 37 yards less than the next lowest defense.
The Texans feature one of the toughest defenders in the league in J.J. Watt, who not only gets to quarterbacks, but he also bats a lot of balls down, wreaking havoc on the line. The Chiefs line will be responsible for containing Watt, but Smith must remain calm and productive under the pressure Watt will put on him.
This game may be Alex Smith’s biggest challenge of the season. If this happens to be the week the Texans’ offense wakes up from its slumber, Smith may need to step up his production. This game will be more difficult than it looks from their records. If Smith has another bad game, Houston is good enough to take advantage.
Watch how Smith reacts to a truly good defense. Can he manage a game successfully? Can he step up his game against a tough opponent if he has to? These are both questions that may get answered this week. Keep you eye on Smith as he plays under the spotlight this week.