I need a place to lie down, comfort food, prescription drugs, an old priest and a young priest, and probably a new heart.
Seriously, to quote every 16-year-old girl ever, I can't even...
After my heart stopped hammering in my chest and I gave up any chance of falling back asleep (yes, I woke up at 2 in the morning to watch the game on NFL Rewind. Yes, I have a problem), I figured I may as well write something resembling a column on that heart attack of a game. Since writing anything coherent is basically out of the question at this point, I'm going to keep things simple and let numbers and images do most of the talking.
In this same space I've called out Alex Smith when he needs to do his part to help the team win (along with other players). I'm a believer in giving blame where I think it's due after a game. On the flip side of that, I'm a believer in giving credit as well.
I'm not about to start a long, pointless, ridiculous debate over Alex Smith's long-term effect on this team (I'm quite certain that will take care of itself in the comments). This is about this week and this week only.
This week, Alex Smith completed 67.8 percent of his passes at 7.9 yards per attempt. A solid stat line, especially when you consider two of Smith's nine incomplete passes looked like this:
Good Lord, Junior Hemingway and Dwayne Bowe. There are drops, then there are DROPS. Then there are "AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
The last one is reserved for ridiculously easy catches that would have resulted in first downs in close games where points are coming at a premium. I'm just estimating here, but I'd say I (conservatively) lost five years off my life because of each of those drops. I'm happy Bowe has been more of a factor recently (five catches, 84 yards yesterday), but he and Junior each owe Smith a fantastic catch.
At least with Bowe's drop, the Chiefs still got points on the drive. The Hemingway drop meant a punt and a missed opportunity to extend the lead. It ALSO led to the Chargers getting the ball back with a minute left and (of course, because Philip Rivers is a jerk) scoring a touchdown. Look where Hemingway is in relation to defenders as the ball is about to arrive.
Every defender in the shot is either terribly out of position (Hemingway's guy, who was completely torched by the slant) or not looking at Junior (every defender above the red circle).
There's one deep safety off-screen who probably makes the tackle, but it's absolutely not a sure thing considering the head of steam Hemingway has. And that tackle absolutely isn't occurring until the 40-yard-line at the very, very earliest. In other words, Hemingway catching makes a field goal for the Chiefs likely while disallowing the Chargers the opportunity to score. conservatively, that's a 10 point swing. Ugh.
But I've wandered off track (that happens when I'm emotionally drained). This is a "good game Smith" article, and my point is that even a very solid stat line doesn't accurately depict how well Smith played yesterday. Because at least two solid plays (one a potentially huge one) were left on the field by Smith's receivers.
Rodney Hudson and Zach Fulton, what do you think of those drops?
Me too, guys. Me too.
The absolute worst thing you can say about Smith's performance yesterday was that he didn't take shots down the field. This was covered at length by the announcer in the fourth quarter. With the Chiefs up three points and facing 3rd and 6 from their own 49-yard-line, Smith had an opportunity to take a shot. He didn't do it. Here's a still of the moment that caused a fit from the announcer.
Now, said announcer insisted that Smith should have taken a shot down the field, and also insisted that the correct "shot" would be to A.J. Jenkins. I've taken the liberty of drawing an arrow to Jenkins, because MS Paint is fun.
I completely disagree that Jenkins is the throw to make there. He has absolutely no separation whatsoever and has never, ever shown the ability to make contested catches. Frankly, Jenkins hasn't even shown the ability to contest the ground. Or the sideline. But you're going to trust him to beat a guy in tight coverage? No thanks.
Now, the circled man (and area)? You and I already know that's Travis Kelce coming open. Because Travis Kelce is ALWAYS coming open. It's a risky throw with defenders recovering, but it's there. Smith should have pulled the trigger and made sure to put a little extra into the throw to ensure it's either Kelce or no one. It was a very conservative play on his part to pull the ball down (and, in the end, throw it away).
But, despite all this, one has to keep in mind that the Chiefs were WINNING at this point in the game. One could (in my opinion erroneously) argue it isn't the time for Smith to make the riskier throw. While I believe the throw should have been made, it's at least up for debate to an extent.
The point is, that's it. That's Smith's worst play of the game. An incomplete pass where he arguably should have gone deep and taken a bigger chance. Frankly, when that's the worst play you can find of a quarterback, that's a pretty good day even if he doesn't do anything great on the day.
Fortunately for Smith, he didn't stick with conservative when points became needed. With 1:39 left the Chiefs, at their own 27-yard-line, are facing a 2nd and 15 following a false start. this is where you need to make something happen if you're the quarterback.
Unfortunately for Smith, Eric Fisher gets immediately DESTROYED by a spin move. This still is taken right as Smith has taken his last step in his drop. That's how quickly it happened.
The large angry man is headed right for Smith. Eric Fisher is standing there wondering how a pass rusher managed to disappear in a puff of smoke. And Smith (I imagine) is thinking that more than a nanosecond to survey the field would sure be fun in this situation.
Somehow, though, Smith managed to turn the worst case scenario into a first-down-achieving strike to Bowe over the middle of the field. Here it is step by step.
You know what ISN'T safe, or conservative, or game manage-y, or whatever other term that's used to (often correctly) criticize Alex Smith? An off-balance, across-the-body-I-have-to-trust-my-arm throw to the middle of the field between two defenders as a really, really, really big man is running toward you with bad intentions.
That was the least Alex Smith throw Alex Smith has made all year.
You can almost SEE Smith decide to play it safe, too. As the play unfolds you watch him escape from the pressure and move left. As he's moving left, you can practically hear his inner monologue...
"All right, this play is busted already. Dangit, Eric, I needed more time! All right, Jamaal's turned to block because he's an awesome human being. I can get 5-10 easy yards here and get it out of bounds. Except ... Bowe's open, the man is open. I'll have to throw it across my body while moving sideways ... Screw it, let's see what happens."
And of course, what happened was a bullet right to Bowe at the first down marker and the momentum shifting radically in the Chiefs favor. And what happened was a fired-up Alex Smith rifling a perfect pass to Travis Kelce on a slant the very next play to get the Chiefs into Chargers territory. One more "yeah, you need to get me the ball 8-10 times a game" play by Kelce later and the Chiefs are in range for Cairo Santos to redeem himself.
Bonus pictures featuring Smith trusting Bowe:
See how that corner is right up on Bowe, but Smith is cocking the ball back to fire it in there anyway? Bowe has his flaws as a receiver, but he is going to win a physical fight for the ball nine out of ten times. Bowe made the contested catch and got to the first down. He's arguably a better receiver in these scenarios than he is when he's wide open.
If Smith keeps making these contested throws to Bowe (and this is a couple weeks in a row he's done it), he absolutely will keep producing. One last Smith-to-Bowe...
When a back shoulder throw to Dwayne Bowe is thrown that well, and Smith / Bowe sync their timing that well, this play absolutely cannot be stopped by a single corner. In the name of all things holy, keep feeding Bowe contested throws, Alex. Challenge him. It's when he thrives.
Heckuva game for Smith, by the numbers and by the tape. Now let's see it again next week in a no-easy-drops version. Maybe even bring along some of that "let's see what happens" mentality.