Everyone seems to expect that Alex Smith will begin turning the ball over at an alarming pace at some point, but in the right system, like the one he is playing in for the Kansas City Chiefs, he seems to be avoiding those that used to plague him in the past, and not getting in the way of a perfect start to the season.
After winning only twice last season, the Chiefs have already surpassed last season’s total, off to a 3-0 start in what is pretty much the Andy Reid era, characterized by an excellent defense (so far) and playing very cautiously, yet mistake-free on offense, which seems to be enough to get by, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 26-16.
All the talk of an offense that’s too quick to handle went out the window. The Chiefs got six sacks on Michael Vick, including 4.5 by Justin Houston, who becomes only the second player in franchise history (Along with Derrick Thomas), to record that many sacks in a single game. They finished with six sacks, as Tamba Hali also got one on the scrambling quarterback.
In general, the Eagles offense looked like a mess when they didn’t run the ball. They did gain an incredible 260 yards on the ground, but everything fell apart whenever they tried and pass. Vick finished with 13-of-30, throwing one pass for a touchdown but also getting intercepted twice. Every time the running game got Philadelphia anywehre, the passing game was there to mess it up, including Eric Berry scoring a touchdown off one of the interceptions.
But the real story is Smith, who many doubted his ability to carry on being a legitimate NFL quarterback with the protection of that massive offensive line or the coaching of Jim Harbaugh. Andy Reid might have missed the playoffs over the last couple of years, but he knows a lot of football and especially offense, designing the right scheme to make Smith as effective as possible.
Smith wasn’t outstanding, as the Chiefs’ offense in general this season. Ryan Succopp hit four field goals while the other two touchdowns came from an interception return or a touchdown run by Jamaal Charles (finishing with 92 yards on 20 carries). But the Chiefs don’t need him to be special, they just need him to avoid turnovers.
So Smith did get sacked five times when he couldn’t escape the pass-rush, running for 33 yards on 10 carries. He doesn’t have the best of offensive lines in front of him, while the Eagles did manage to succeed in sending confusing blitz packages. It wasn’t enough. Smith kept it short and simple, finishing with 22-of-35 for 273 yards. 0 Touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
When he attempted passes shorter than 10 yards downfield, it went very well, completing 21-of-31, and has been intercepted on these short throws over the last two seasons on only 1.5% of his attempts; only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have done better when moving the chains slowly.
The Philadelphia Eagles were probably the more talented team in more than one position, but when you turn the ball over five times while not creating any, there’s really no point in having the quickest offense in football. The Chiefs might not be flashy, but they’re doing the right things, and avoiding any imploding moments that will reveal just how unremarkable they actually might be.