Alex Smith’s eyes got wide after he was handed the script for the Chiefs’ first offensive series of the season at Jacksonville.
The Chiefs had practiced the first play on the list during the week, but Smith wasn’t sure he’d see it on the very first snap of the Andy Reid era.
So Smith faked a handoff to Jamaal Charles, who went left, while Smith rolled right. He looked to his left and arched a deep pass 35 yards downfield for tight end Anthony Fasano, who had three steps on Jacksonville linebacker Russell Allen.
The ball, slightly overthrown, went through Fasano’s outstretched fingertips.
The pass might have been incomplete, but the message was clear to the Chiefs and to the rest of the NFL.
“You love the aggressive attitude … you know … we’re not going to hold anything back,” Smith said. “You certainly going to take your opportunities here and there. That one presented itself and we took it.”
The Chiefs didn’t go back to that play or anything like it the rest of the game. But it was on tape for all the world to see, starting with Sunday’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
“No. 1, it sends a message to our team that we have the utmost confidence in everything we do,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. “We’re not going to shy away from taking shots early in the football game. You have to be able to do that.
“From a defensive standpoint, it sends a message, ‘OK, there’s an opportunity to have to defend the deep ball a little bit … It allows the defenders to be a little softer.’ Sometimes when you present the same offensive formation, they’ve seen it once; you might get them once, but they’ll be all over it next time.
“Then, because they are a little softer, you have the ability to be able to nickel and dime them a little bit.”
Smith did nickel and dime the Jaguars the rest of the way. He completed 21 of 34 passes in the game for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Only four starting quarterbacks in the league threw for fewer yards, and only one, Jacksonville’s Blaine Gabbert, averaged fewer yards per completion than Smith’s 5.09.
But once the Chiefs led comfortably at 21-2 and 28-2, and it was apparent Jacksonville was not going to move the ball on offense, the game became tantamount to a fifth preseason game.
The Chiefs, who worked on the Pistol and read option in the preseason, ran out of the Pistol formation just three times. Jamaal Charles gained one yard on the final play of the first quarter; Smith fumbled and lost seven yards on the second play of the second quarter; and he ran on a keeper to the right side for 13 yards on the next play.
Smith executed a read option once, which produced a five-yard run by Charles on the first play of the second quarter.
In the second half, there was no need for the no-huddle offense when there was clock to burn.
“We definitely want to go out there and spark it up quick and get momentum fast,” wide receiver Dexter McCluster said. “We want to be aggressive coming out.
“In the second half, it’s always good when you can keep your regular base offense on the field and not show too much. If needed, we could have done so.…”
Reid, known for having a gimmick play or two every game, didn’t have to reach in his bag of tricks.
“You’re up three or four scores and you’re not going to use those,” Smith said
It probably won’t take long for the Chiefs to dial up some big plays Sunday considering the Cowboys surrendered 450 passing yards and four touchdowns in their 36-31 win over the New York Giants. Dallas allowed completions of 70 and 57 yards to the Giants, and three receivers topped the 100-yard barrier.
Because the Chiefs didn’t have to show much of their playbook in the opener, the Cowboys have had to refer to their semi-annual games against Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles for hints on what to expect Sunday.
“What Andy has done throughout his career is always play with good pace and good tempo,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Sometimes it’s in a no-huddle format, other times it’s within their system of offense. They’ve always had good offenses in Philly, they got off to a good start in Kansas City.
“They have some big play guys outside. You think of the size and stature of Dwayne Bowe … Alex has made a lot of big plays throughout his career down the field. He has excellent feet, he’s an excellent athlete and can buy some time. We have to force him to get the ball out and pressure him and don’t give him opportunities to make those plays down the field.”
Even though the Chiefs didn’t take any shots downfield in the second half, Reid wasn’t happy his offense failed to score in their last seven possessions at Jacksonville. Reid was adamant he wasn’t letting up on the gas.
“As an offensive coach you never want to play that way,” Reid said. “(Dean Smith) was great at the four corners, but you can’t think that way. The challenge for the offense is you score as much as you can score. You rest and kind of do that stalled technique in this league and the other team is going to catch up to you. That wasn’t our objective in the second half.
“We have to do a better job there, I have to do a better job … We have to do a better job putting guys in a position where they can make some plays in the running and passing game.”
There’s little doubt in the minds of the Chiefs players that the offensive script for today’s game will include some deep shots downfield.
“If you ever knew Andy Reid’s offense….” said Charles, who lines up all over the field, including split wide. “He’s never been a dink, dink, dink, dink … he’s always deep-ball coach. In his schemes, he has stuff we can throw down low and get the chunks, chunks and then make the explosive play.”