I'm gonna level with you guys ... if you clicked on this article thinking, "Oh great, yet another offseason 'list' article written by some hack who didn't have real NFL news so decided that he'd just make a list of stuff so we'd argue about what should be ranked where," well ... you're spookily accurate.
It's not that there's NOTHING to write about. It's just that there's not as many INTERESTING things to write about. And before I take on another long film review project, I'd like to take a moment to breathe.
Also, there's nothing more fun than inciting a little Alex Smith debate. So there's that.
Anyway, the title reveals, we're going to take a walk through Alex Smith's best plays of the year. Some of them will be familiar to you. Others (hopefully) will be plays you've forgotten.
My criteria? Mostly random opinion, honestly, but I try to take into account the difficulty of the play on Smith's part, impact on the game, and a few other things. For example, Smith's 9,000 yard run against the Lions, while really fun to watch, wasn't one of his best plays of the year because it essentially involved a catastrophic defensive breakdown by the Lions. It was a good play by Smith to show off his wheels, but it wasn't THAT tough a play.
Game situation is a little more nuanced. I prefer moments where the team NEEDED a first down (or touchdown) and Smith delivered. So some plays, even if they're slightly less difficult plays to make, will get a higher ranking by me due to how important it was that Smith make something happen.
But really, this is mostly just my opinion. Let's do this.
10. The Perfect Throw That Time Forgot
Have you ever done something really awesome, only to have no one notice or remember? Me too.
This one time, when I worked retail, I accidentally bumped into a couple of soup cans on the top shelf while I was zoning in the cans aisle. Both cans hurtled toward the floor at possibly hundreds of miles an hour (I can't say for sure it was that fast, but I can't prove it WASN'T either).
Now, I could have just let those cans hit the floor like some kind of nobody. Normally, that's exactly what would have happened. But not that day. Not. That. Day. Instead, like some kind of cyborg ninja, I snatched BOTH of those cans out of the air, one in each hand. I'm not sure I didn't do some sort of spin move in the process. It was all a blur, really. But the point is, I basically did the greatest thing anyone has ever done in the soup can aisle of that particular store.
BUT NOBODY SAW.
I couldn't believe it. I had just done, literally, the coolest thing anyone has ever done, and there were no witnesses. Ugh. It may as well have not happened. No one would remember.
I bet Alex Smith identified after this throw.
Alex Smith top plays nominee. I blocked out most of the GB game, so I forgot what a dart this throw was. pic.twitter.com/wQNUtjg39R— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) March 30, 2016
That throw is a freaking laser from outer space that hit Maclin as in stride as humanly possible ... but no one would remember, because that Green Bay game was ROUGH.
I know exactly how you feel, Alex. Soup cans, man.
9. Torching Houston, Part One
Given that we're going to be doing 10 of these plays, I won't be embedding every one of them as a GIF. Web page speed, and other nerdy stuff that I don't understand, prevents me from getting quite so crazy. That said, here's a link to the GIF of the play if you're just one of those people who needs visual aids.
This is one most of you likely to remember. Week 1, Chiefs at Texans. We've been hearing all week from various Texans fans how their defense is such and such and blah, blah, blah (which is what we keep hearing every time we play those guys. Yet the Chiefs keep winning. Weird).
You know the story. The Chiefs scored roughly a hundred points in the first half before hitting cruise control. Of all the throws, this TD pass to Kelce was far and away Smith's best play of the day.
It's a textbook red zone play. Smith holds the safety with his eyes, knowing he's got Kelce in a favorable matchup (which is basically any time Kelce is one-on-one vs. anybody). He then shifts back to Kelce and fires a dart just over the outstretched hands of a linebacker playing zone. The ball gets placed in a spot only Kelce can grab it, and the throw is hard enough to remove any risk that the scrambling safety can recover on time. Gorgeous play.
8. Going Full Houdini Against The Browns
Everyone knows Alex Smith had quite a few rushing yards in 2015. What gets overlooked is how often those rushes earned first downs and extended drives. What's also overlooked is how often Smith took a crap situation and turned it into a positive gain.
I could have chosen between a bunch of different scrambles, but this one is my favorite.
When you turn an 8-yard loss into a 29-yard gain.. Smith's ability to get something from nothing is underrated. pic.twitter.com/XCvhDjnZPK— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) March 30, 2016
I heart this play, mostly because it goes from total doom to a big gain. We're talking a nearly 40 yard swing. Smith, for a guy who gets a lot of crap for his work in the pocket (some deserved, some not), can be remarkably hard to bring down. And when he escapes, he makes defenses pay.
This play gets inclusion in part because it's a representative of where Smith did some of his best work in 2015; making something out of nothing with his legs.
7. Three Defenders Are Close To Wilson, You Say? So????
Smith is famously risk-averse. While this CAN be a good thing, it's often something that has held him back as a quarterback. Arguably the most pleasing development of 2015 was Smith coming out of his shell and taking quite a few more shots down the field and in tight windows. I did not see that coming, to be perfectly honest.
This throw to Albert Wilson (here's the GIF) is a good example of this newfound aggressiveness. Smith has some pressure coming up the middle, and Wilson isn't ACTUALLY open when he releases the ball (or even close). But Smith, despite the ball's wobbly trajectory, delivers a throw to the one spot Wilson can come back and get it.
What I love about the throw (besides the placement) is the fact that multiple defenders were around Wilson when Smith released. Three different defenders would've had a shot to pick off a worse throw. Smith chucked it anyway. Ol' gunslinger Smith, amirite? Right? Guys?
6. Courage Under Fire
I'm going to just let this one speak (mostly) for itself.
Smith top 10 nominee. Stood in the pocket and delivered despite getting HAMMERED. Next play was a TD. pic.twitter.com/1KzFSW4rTl— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) March 29, 2016
Now to be fair, the Chiefs had this game well in hand already when Smith made this play. But ... it did lead to another touchdown the very next play, kicking the game from "not close" to "wow this game is over" territory.
But this type of play is almost situation-proof. You want to earn respect as a QB? Take a couple of shots like this. But not too many, because, you know, death and stuff.
5. Pushing Back The Steelers
Man, this not actively embedding every play is just killing me at this point because every play is just so much fun to watch.
So remember the Steelers game? It's easy to remember after all the winning that followed, but the Chiefs almost let the Steelers back into the game. Remember that? In the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh had crept to within three points and had the Chiefs facing third and four in their own territory. The Steelers appeared to have all the momentum, and I think all of us were ready to accept the millionth loss in a row.
One COULD argue the entire season hung in the balance (though most of us thought the season was over already, but I digress). Then Smith made one of the finest throws he's made as a Chief (the GIF can be found here).
Basically, Kelce went right down the seam, hoping to split the defense. He had a LB trailing right behind him, and safety help was over the top. In other words, Smith had to drop it over the head of the shallow coverage BUT throw it hard enough to beat the deep coverage. It was a tiny window 30 yards down the field, and Smith absolutely stuck it.
Really, this play could be ranked higher. The rest of the season may have turned out very, very differently had Smith not nailed this play. Huge moment, but one a lot of us forgot because it wasn't a touchdown.
4. Killing The Raiders, Featuring Demetrius Harris
You know exactly what throw I'm talking about. I don't even need to say much else about it.
Any play automatically gets an extra point if it's against the Raiders. Them's the rules, and I didn't write 'em (well, I did, but still). When said play is Smith making an unbelievable contested throw that had MAYBE a foot of window in which to make the play? Well yeah, that's making the list.
Top Alex Smith play nominee, because duh. pic.twitter.com/jP3RpSvUjg— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) March 29, 2016
If we're going by JUST the throw, that's the second best throw I've seen Alex Smith make as a Chief. No, it's not 40 yards down the field or whatever, but it's an unbelievably difficult pass to make. The fact that he even attempted it is something. I can't honestly say I recall seeing Smith force a throw like that in all of 2013. It happened maybe a couple of times in 2014, but never like THAT.
Here, Smith isn't even under pressure. So it's not like it's some kind of desperation heave. That's 100 percent a "dang, he ain't open but he's TALL. Psshhh, I can make that throw" decision.
I remember seeing an analyst (genuinely can't remember who) commenting once that you could almost see Smith convincing himself he couldn't make various throws. Alex Smith 2.0 took huge strides in conquering that issue, and this play evidences that about as well as it can be done.
3. Bombs Over Buffalo
Here's another one you'll remember perfectly. It's the classic bomb every fan loves.
Smith stepping into pocket to avoid pressure, sticks the 40-yard bomb. Yeah, totally saw that coming... pic.twitter.com/bgcxtsYqq6— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) November 30, 2015
When we fall asleep at night we dream about 40 yard passes falling gently into the arms of sprinting wide receivers. Well, most of us. Some of us prefer three yards and a cloud of dust. But even those hard-hearted-old-school-loving fans got stoked to see Smith stick the type of throw we've seen him miss all too often.
What raises this play up higher is the situation. The Chiefs we letting the Bills score at will at this point in the game, and they'd just gone down 16-7. Remember what we always said about the Chiefs? If they get down by more than one score, they're likely doomed?
Well, that day Smith and company didn't get the memo. In one play the Bills lead evaporated to a couple of points, and the Chiefs were right back into things. A wonderful play by Smith (and Jeremy "if I'm even, I'm leavin'" Maclin).
But honestly, as far as pure THROWS go, this next play is as good as it gets.
2. Threading The Needle
Another top Smith play nominee. The degree of difficulty on this throw is... well, it's not small. pic.twitter.com/7OBwRunYVx— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) March 29, 2016
I'm sure not everyone is as impressed as I am by this throw. Like I said earlier, most fans love 40 yard bombs more than throws in the red zone that are maybe 20 yards in the air.
That said, this is the most impressive throw (not play, not read, but pure throw) I think Alex Smith has made since he joined the Chiefs. Yes, more impressive than the bomb to Avery in the Colts game. More impressive than the Bills throw above. More impressive than than that tiny window to Demetrius Harris.
The thing about this throw is that it doesn't just require touch. It requires putting serious heat behind it AND hitting a tiny, tiny space in which there's a Jeremy Maclin but no defenders. Chucking the ball like that with that kind of accuracy is incredibly difficult.
The shallow coverage makes this throw especially difficult. Gotta throw it over the head of the LB, out ahead of Maclin's trailing corner, and with more than enough heat to get it there before the safety can recover.
Best pure throw I've seen Smith make, and I will fight you to the death about this.
Of course, ya'll know what number one is. And what number one was always going to be.
1. Refusing To Go Quietly
I've already said hundreds of words about this play, so I don't have much left. Absolutely the best individual PLAY Smith has made as a Chief. Dodging multiple pass rushers. Keeping his eyes down the field. Firing off a risky throw. Sticking said throw in about the only place it could go.
Smith could go his whole career and never make another play that good. I sure hope he doesn't.
Well, that was fun. Next time I write at length about Smith it'll be for his every-snap film review. In the meantime, thanks for some good memories this year, Alex. Now let's double them in 2016.