Let's just get this out of the way immediately. This is going to be ugly. The Kansas City Chiefs have a bad offense right now, and there are a litany of reasons for it. After watching the entire game via All-22 film three times, I'm going to give you an accurate, non-biased view of what happened.
I have been an Alex Smith supporter and will continue to be, but his play in the second half was atrocious. Smith was one of many factors why the team lost Sunday, no more or less to blame than the receivers and offensive line. Andy Reid also did him no favors, constantly throwing despite either leading or trailing by three. It was a ridiculous gameplan, and I'll leave it at that.
All I ask is you read what I have to say with an open mind. Feel free to tear into everybody at the bottom of this post, but do so without having had preconceived notions. I'll lay out everything in pictures with descriptions as usual.
Let's get rolling with some plays from the first half and digest what happened.
Play #1 - Smith misses an opportunity (1st Quarter, 1st and 20)
This is going to be a simple play you have probably run in Madden a thousand times. Smith has Albert Wilson split left and Dwayne Bowe wide right. Travis Kelce is tight to the right side and Anthony Sherman has just motioned out of the I formation to the left. Knile Davis is the deep back.
As you can see with MS Paint mastery, Bowe is running a deep corner route. Kelce is running underneath Bowe, and Sherman is serving as a safety valve. Wilson is the last receiver in the progression. As you can see, the protection is perfect.
Look at Bowe, who is breaking wide open. Bowe has Patrick Peterson all turned around, giving Smith an easy throw to the sideline. Kelce is covered, so he isn't an option, but it should not matter. The throw should be downfield, but Smith plays it safe despite great protection and hits Sherman, his checkdown option. Smith gets a completion and five yards in the stat book, but this was a poor job by him.
Play #2 - Smith makes a massive error (1st Quarter, 3rd and 16)
Kansas City has trips on the right side and Kelce split wide to the left. Davis is the backfield, as the Chiefs are about to run a screen play. Does anything strike you on this play, other than the Cardinals preparing an overload blitz? Maybe it is Kelce UNCOVERED. You can't see it here, but Kelce was frantically waving at Smith, who never saw him.
This is Smith throwing the ball to Davis, which he is supposed to do on this play. It results in a punt on the next play. By the book, it was the correct throw, but Kelce would have had a major gain and perhaps a first down.
Play #3 - Offensive line, Smith get it done (2nd Quarter, 3rd and 14)
Kansas City lines up with Bowe and Wilson wide right and left respectively, with Jason Avant in the slot. Davis and Sherman are lined up inside.
Take a look and tell me where Smith is supposed to go with this ball. It's a tough play call for Reid here, dealing with third and very long. Most quarterbacks either throw the ball away or get into trouble by forcing something. Instead, Smith, who has excellent protection, takes off up field and scrambles for 22 yards and a first down. Great awareness and well done.
The end result, a major play for Kansas City.
Play #4 - Total disaster averted (2nd Quarter, 2nd and 6)
De'Anthony Thomas is wide left with Kelce, who came across the formation, slot left. Anthony Fasano is tight right with Sherman and Jamaal Charles in the backfield.
If you enjoy horrific line play, this baby is for you. Mike McGlynn and Eric Fisher were apparently having a contest to see who could get beat quicker. Both were completely torched on this play, as easily seen above. I didn't even have to circle anything, it's that obvious. Rodney Hudson is doing the best he can to fix the mess, but he had no shot. God bless Hudson, who deals with some of the worst guard play ever witnessed.
With the "pocket" collapsing and nobody open, Smith goes for a run. Smith actually gains four yards and this play and sets up 3rd and short. This is something that is very, very underrated about Smith. Most quarterbacks are sacked here, setting up around 3rd and 10. Smith has the ability to turn a negative into a positive shown earlier and shown here.
Play #5 - Safe Smith shows up again (2nd Quarter, 1st and 15)
Alright, this is impossible to defend. Wilson is lined up wide right with Bowe in the slot and Avant wide left. Sherman and Davis are in the backfield. As you will see, the Cardinals are in a short zone, taking away anything underneath. Luckily for the Chiefs, they have the perfect call for this defense.
Smith has pristine protection. He has to see this play down the field. Bowe is about to break WIDE OPEN with the deep safety responsible for him. Wilson runs a fabulous route here, forcing Peterson to turn his hips and run, moving him away from Bowe. This should absolutely be a touchdown, every single time.
Smith takes his eyes away from his downfield receivers way too quickly and looks for his checkdown. This is exactly what the Cardinals want from Smith. Meanwhile, Bowe could not be any more open. Literally, Bowe could have moonwalked into the end zone. Instead, it is a minimal gain instead of seven points.
Play #6 - Horrendous blocking (2nd Quarter, 2nd and 12)
Wilson is split right with Kelce in tight on the left, Thomas in the slot and Bowe wide left along with Charles in the backfield. Notice that the line of scrimmage is the 27-yard line.
This is literally a second later. Arizona's entire defensive front save one man is all the way to the 35-yard line. How does the entire line give up eight yards of ground so quickly? Meanwhile, outside of Charles, nobody is even remotely open. In a perfect world, Smith dumps the ball to Charles here, but that's easier said than done. In fairness to the guy, he was hit almost immediately.
Is everybody ready for the second half? Had enough of the first half yet?
Play #7 - Smith has no chance (3rd Quarter, 2nd & 8)
Wilson is wide left with Kelce tight left, Davis in the backfield, and Bowe and Avant in a stack to the right. This is a play with four options for Smith, but McGlynn and some awful route-running decide to sabotage this play from the start.
This is a train wreck. First off, the play design stinks because you have three receivers in a 10-foot space. This is so easy to defend, it's laughable. Meanwhile, McGlynn is just being walked back into the pocket by Frostee Rucker. The rest of the line is doing a great job, but McGlynn is out to prove he's terrible. He succeeds.
Smith gets beamed by Rucker, with Kelce only coming open after it was too late. So many of us were screaming at Smith to throw the ball, but he has nowhere to go and a massive defensive tackle about to kill him. This is on the offensive line and receivers, along with poor design.
Play #8 - Fisher on 4th Down (3rd Quarter, 4th and 4)
On fourth down, Wilson is split left with Bowe and Avant on the inside. Kelce is in the slot on the right with Charles in the backfield. I watched this play over and over, and it is very obvious Smith's first read was Avant. He only had time to make that read as it turns out, because of an offensive line issue.
The Cardinals bring four guys, dropping a lineman and blitzing a linebacker. For some reason, the Fisher just pinches in and completely forgets to block the rusher on the edge. This would be understandable if Arizona was coming with the house, but it wasn't. All Fisher had to do was pick up the guy in his zone. He didn't and it blew up the play.
Yes, Charles is wide open. If Smith has time and gets to that read, perhaps it is a touchdown and the game ends right here. Instead, the Cardinals have major pressure immediately and Smith makes the correct read, throwing to Avant. Avant is open, but the throw is off-line due to the pressure. Fisher has to do better here. This is simple.
Play #9 - Receivers can't shake free
Avant is split left with Sherman in the slot and Kelce wide right. Charles is in the backfield and Fasano is tight right alongside Ryan Harris.
Smith was afforded great protection and the receivers could not get open. This is certainly not the first time throughout the game where nobody is beating man-to-man coverage. Smith does a nice job here of rolling out to by time, but nobody is really working to get open. There needs to be an element of freelance here.
Look at the position of the receivers a few seconds later as Smith throws the ball away. Nobody is open. The line and Smith did all they could. Nobody is putting in the extra effort downfield, or getting open in the first place.
Bonus play: The worst call in the history of the NFL
I'm on record saying this play did not cost the Chiefs a win. Ultimately, the team could have come back and made it happen. However, this is so bad, I had to include it. Notice the referee, just now throwing the flag. The only reason he threw the flag was because it was about to be a touchdown. That's total bull. It is either a penalty or not. The back judge decided Fasano's "bump" wasn't a penalty, unless somebody scored, then it had to be flagged. What a joke.
This was the most complete piece I could provide for you, so hopefully it helps. For me personally, watching the film and seeing things develop made the loss easier to understand, if not stomach. As always, the burden of defeat falls on everybody, not just Reid's game-planning skills or Smith's safety measures.
I also want to point out, and this is very important, that I only highlighted negatives for this piece. Throughout the game, Smith made some terrific throws and reads, including his deep ball to Avant. I thought that play, start to finish, was one of his best in a Kansas City uniform. The same can be said of the receivers, who on other plays ran excellent routes and worked to get open.
So, we come back to the central question. How does this get fixed?
Well, the offensive line and the receivers are offseason priorities for John Dorsey. Reid is very handicapped as to what he can do with some of the play calls while McGlynn and Ryan Harris are starters. Without any question, Jeff Allen returning will be a major help, but some money and high draft picks should be used on this group.
As for the receivers, the same applies. I really like Avant and what he brings to the table. He should be re-signed and made the third receiver. However, this group lacks a real playmaker. Bowe is a very good second receiver, but he isn't a top target. The man works very hard, but he simply does provide you with a game-breaking player most weeks.
When we talk about Smith, it's pretty simple. Smith is never going to take chances unless he absolutely has to. He's not going to force throws and go downfield, something that drives all of us insane at times. However, I firmly believe with a more dynamic receiver as the top gun and a real offensive line, Smith will start taking more shots. It is obvious when you watch the film that he's ready to unload the ball immediately. He doesn't trust his line, and why should he?
When I watched the playoff game (six times) last year, Smith didn't show those traits. He sat back in the pocket and looked down the field longer, telling me he was confident in having a few seconds to throw. Get some better offensive linemen and this problem becomes a lesser issue.