Alex Smith had an interesting game against the Raiders.
I guess a better way to say that would be Alex had a somewhat UNUSUAL game, in that it didn’t exactly follow the standard I’ve come to expect from Alex over the last 3 years of watching his film.
Normally, Alex has good games by making almost no mistakes and then making a few really nice plays, and the overall picture is some pluses with almost no minuses. Against Oakland, it was a little different. He had a good game, but not in quite his usual way.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re reading this and have never done so before, maybe take a look here for some introduction and terminology explanation. For the rest of you, let’s jump right into the fact that Alex dropped some DIMES on the Raiders last Thursday.
Man, I'm old enough to remember a time when Alex Smith wasn't sticking 40+ yard bombs on the regular. Also, Tyreek Hill is fast. #analysis pic.twitter.com/BpjAMu7y2p— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 21, 2017
I can’t be the only one who believes the Chiefs should audible to a go route to Tyreek Hill any time defenses are silly enough to have a single-high safety deep, right?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. You audible to that go route and have it be your first read. If the safety doesn’t IMMEDIATELY bail out deep to Hill’s side, chuck it up there as far as you can with a little air under it. It’s either incomplete, a huge gain (and maybe a TD), or some kind of penalty against the defense... right?
The old adage was that when you throw the ball only three things can happen and two of them are bad. I’d argue that in that specific situation with this specific player, you can change that analysis to two of the three possibilities are GOOD (again, the throw needs to be so deep that a pick is out of the question, whereas Tyreek can catch up to it).
I mean, look at this.
Look at where Tyreek Hill was in relation to the CB and S when the ball was released as opposed to when he caught it. He's not human. pic.twitter.com/dMRHSzaJdQ— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 23, 2017
There’s no one like Hill in the league. Let’s say the Chiefs took this shot 10 times in a game. Even if they fail on the majority of those plays (say six), that’s still four huge plays and likely a touchdown or two.
Isn’t that worth it? Am I crazy here? I seriously the believe the Chiefs should do this until opponents say, “welp, guess we can’t play single high against them.” Especially with Alex throwing the ball deep as well as he has.
Anyways, let’s talk about Alex against the Raiders. Here are the numbers:
First and foremost, it’s important to point out that Smith was MUCH better against the Raiders than he was against the Steelers. He threw the ball way more accurately, made more franchse QB throws, and was a bit more settled in the pocket.
What made this game an unusual good game by Alex was that he had some rough mistakes, but they were outweighed by multiple exceptional throws. Like I said, normally when Alex has a good game it’s more a “no bad, some good.” In this case, it was like “some bad, lots more good.” Again, just a weird game by Alex.
I was a bit concerned after the Steelers game that we’d see Alex revert back to being overly cautious/conservative with the ball and it would lower his level of play. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Alex continued his season-long pattern of showing a newfound willingness and ability to hit tight windows and make aggressive throws.
Not every great throw is 50 yards down the field. This is a GREAT throw on 3rd down against decent coverage. pic.twitter.com/SwKdiIwI76— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 26, 2017
Alex also, for the most part, continued his newfound trend of keeping his eyes up in the pocket while he moves around and looking for a receiver to break open. He did this multiple times with positive results against the Raiders, both at the beginning of the game and near the end.
One of the biggest things Alex is doing better this year: eyes up when he moves around behind the LOS. Finds Robinson 1st play of the game. pic.twitter.com/idAHVcjLcB— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 26, 2017
Really nice play by Alex on 3rd down in the 4th. Quick pressure, keeps his eyes up and delivers a strike into a contested window as he's hit pic.twitter.com/5OW6TYrrcS— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 26, 2017
This is as good a time as any to drop in the fact that I think Demarcus Robinson is going to be a really pleasant surprise to those of us (well, those of me) who weren’t sure if he’d be able to pick up the slack left by Conley. Robinson has extremely quick feet, good burst in and out of breaks, and decent speed. He also has the ability to track the ball in the air and adjust to it. There was a good example of virtually all of these traits in one play.
Robinson is going to work out. Quick feet, is capable of making defenders look really stupid if they aren't careful. Nice adjustment too. pic.twitter.com/hgSMR3T2vi— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 23, 2017
This got marked down as an inaccurate throw from Smith, but it demonstrates what I’m talking about with Robinson. He is able to make defenders look very silly with his ability to stop and start on a dime. Watch that quick fake inside. The defender has absolutely no shot after biting and Robinson is by him in a puff of smoke. The throw allows us to see Robinson’s ability to track and adjust to the ball, pulling it in for a big gain.
While the throw isn’t great, it’s worth noting that Alex put it up there for Robinson to go get and trusted him to do so. Also (and this is big), Alex appeared to audible to this throw presnap. That means a few things:
- Alex, from his own goal line, audibled to a deep shot down the sideline with his back to the wall. That’s just awesome.
- Alex trusted Robinson to execute on such a ballsy play and believed that a one-on-one matchup between Robinson and a corner meant a good chance at a win. That shows a level of trust I’m not sure Alex had in Robinson as recently as a few weeks ago.
I really, really like this new version of Alex, who is willing to audible into deep shots when he sees a matchup he likes, regardless of the fact that he’s backpedaling into his own end zone. The Chiefs need Alex to play like that (fearless), and he’s answered the call.
If this game had occurred in 2016, it would’ve been arguably Alex’s best game of the season. In fact, I think it WOULD have been Alex’s best game of the year. However, the bar has been raised to the point that I would call it Alex’s 4th or maybe even 5th best game of the year. We’ll come back to that point in a minute, but first I do want to say why I don’t think Alex played as well as he did against he Patriots, Texans, Redskins or Eagles (the Eagles one is the most debatable in my opinion).
Now again, none of what I’m about to write is to say Alex played a bad game. Overall, he played very well. he just had a couple of crucial mistakes that dropped the game down a peg for me.
The first was that he had a couple of “bigger” missed shots, the worst of which was really rough.
This missed shot (Robinson, bottom of screen) hurt. I think bad snap made Alex quick to throw short, but Robinson is open for huge gain or 6 pic.twitter.com/ZPHdpcZkk9— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 26, 2017
Because of the nature of the coverage and routes, one deep safety was left to cover both Robinson and Kelce. The safety appeared to be picking Kelce, who absolutely ROASTED his defender up the seam. That left Robinson running all by his lonesome.
As I stated in the tweet, I believe the bad snap threw Alex off and he was looking to avoid a big play for the Raiders. However, he appears to be looking down the field to start and so SHOULD read the safeties’ movement. Having done that, he’s should recognize the huge opportunity there. And given the way Alex has thrown the ball deep this year, I have no doubt he sticks the throw to Robinson and the Chiefs likely get a touchdown (drive ended in a field goal).
As I’ve said repeatedly, no QB is perfect and every one of them misses at least one shot a game. This one just happened to be worse than your ordinary missed shot.
The second thing was that Alex happened to have one of his poorer plays of the game occur at a pretty crucial moment.
I guarantee Alex wants this one back. Gets spooked by fake blitz, drifts off his spot. Makes job for T's way tougher, then doesn't step up. pic.twitter.com/Db6pBU0Hqz— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) October 26, 2017
It is what it is. Alex (I think) got spooked by the fake blitz and by the fact that Mack was winning pretty quickly against Fisher. Rather than staying in his “spot” (the imaginary area the offensive linemen believe the QB to be in and so protect, since they usually can’t actually see the QB while they fight rushers), Alex drifts back and right, which messes with Schwartz’s protection and puts him right in the lane for a sack.
It’s not THAT rough a play by Alex, but the timing really sucked. He had a few other plays where his pocket presence was a bit worse than it’s been this year as well. Combine that with some missed shots and a pair of potential picks and Alex’s overall great day get knocked down a few pegs.
Of course, one has to understand that if weren’t for the multiple great plays Alex made on the day the Chiefs would have lost the game by a couple of scores, considering the pass defense was letting Oakland receivers run wild all day and making Derek Carr look like prime Dan Marino. Additionally, none of this would’ve mattered if Travis Kelce just dives forward for a first down on the previous drive... but whaddya gonna do?
But back to the overall view of this game. Like I said, I’d peg this as Alex’s fourth or fifth best performance of the season. If I HAD to rank all seven games from worst to best, it’d go like this:
7. Steelers game
6. Chargers game
5. Raiders game
4. Eagles game
3. Patriots game
2. Redskins game
BEST: Texans game
Now, we could quibble a bit about the top three I think, but overall that’s how I’d rate the games this year.
The crazy thing is that, like I said earlier, the game against the Raiders this year would arguably be better than any game Alex played last season.
The only way to really test this theory would be to look at every game again. Since I can’t do that (well, I could, be even I’m not that crazy), I took a quick look at my review of what I recalled to be Alex’s best game of 2016, his game against the Falcons.
In that game, Alex completed passes at a higher percentage (84 percent vs 69.4) and a higher YPA. However, Alex threw for fewer yards against the Falcons and was asked to throw the ball significantly fewer times (which can be inferred to mean that he wasn’t ask to do as much ... which matches up with my memory of that game). If we go by my deep stats, Alex didn’t have any potential picks against the Falcons (as opposed to two in the Raider game), BUT... Alex had only three franchise QB throws as opposed to the five against the Raiders, and two saves as opposed to three plays made (different terms, same concept). Additionally, Alex played under tougher circumstances Thursday, with four flushes opposed to only two against the Falcons. Finally, Alex had fewer missed shots and one fewer happy feet snaps against the Falcons.
Once you weigh the two out (and read through the actual film portions), I think the Falcons game gets a slight edge. It’s extremely close, as Alex was asked to do more to carry the offense against the Raiders, and franchise throws and plays made carry a LOT of weight for me. But I’d go with the Falcons game.
But here’s my point: it’s a legit discussion as to whether Alex’s very best game of 2016 is better than... his 5th best game of 2017 THOUGH SEVEN GAMES. In other words, in less than half a season Alex has put together 5 games that are as good as or (in the case of at least 3 of them) better than the very best Alex did all season in 2016.
I’ve taken a long road to a short thought here: Alex has been much, much, much better in 2017 than he was in 2016, or 2015, or any other season as a Chief. He’s on course of by far the best year of his career. I hope to see that continue against the Broncos.