Kansas City Chiefs

Smith leads rejuvenated air attack

It was a sight Chiefs fans haven’t seen enough this year. Perfect protection. A deep, gorgeous spiral. And a receiver wearing red, white and gold settling under the ball for a big gain.

Yes, the Chiefs threw a deep ball on Sunday, and it marked the second straight week quarterback Alex Smith hooked up with a receiver for a big gain downfield. Not a catch-and-run — though the Chiefs did that, too. A deep ball.

And to Smith and receiver Albert Wilson, who teamed up for a 48-yard gain on a post route in the second quarter, it was as beautiful to them as it might have been for the average fan. The defense gave them a deep-friendly look, and the turnover-conscious Smith uncorked it after surveying his options.

“It was Travis (Kelce) pulling the safety over, and then them jumping on Dwayne (Bowe) on the deep cross, and then the one-on-one outside and Albert making the play, beating his man and making the play downfield,” Smith said.

It was far from the only explosive pass play the Chiefs managed to pull off Sunday, as the offense shook off two uneven performances in losses to Denver and Arizona and managed to get untracked in a 31-13 win over the woeful Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.

Smith, as he tends to be in Chiefs victories, was the picture of efficiency in the win. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

What’s more, Smith completed six passes of 20 yards or more, including a 70-yard touchdown pass to running back Knile Davis, a 37-yard completion to Bowe on a dig route and a 20-yard touchdown to tight end Kelce on a slant.

“I thought that was one of the positives offensively,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We were able to drive it down there. It loosens things up a bit. You saw they were playing a lot of single-safety middle and putting that extra guy in the box, obviously concerned about Jamaal and the run game. So it opened up something down the field for us. I thought Alex (Smith) did a nice job, 297 yards throwing the football.”

It marked the second straight week Smith tried to push the ball downfield. In a 17-14 loss to Arizona a week ago, Smith was two of four for 70 yards on deep balls, including a 41-yard completion to receiver Jason Avant. That was Chiefs’ longest pass of the season until Wilson’s and Davis’ plays on Sunday.

The Chiefs’ passing game wasn’t infallible, however. Unfortunately for the Chiefs’ receivers, their improbable touchdown drought stretched yet another week, though Bowe insists the unit is concerned only about winning.

“As long as the ball is coming, you are keeping the chains moving to put guys in situations that can make plays, that is what we are doing,” said Bowe, who caught three passes for 69 yards. “We are unselfish, we love to play football and we have been there before. I led the league (in touchdown receptions) before, so it doesn’t matter for me to have to score, it is for me to have to win.”

The Chiefs did leave some big plays on the field. For instance, Smith and De’Anthony Thomas failed to connect on a deep ball down the left sideline that would have gone for a touchdown with a better throw. Smith also failed to connect with Bowe on another deep ball down the left sideline that Bowe couldn’t quite haul in and stay inbounds.

In all, Smith attempted six deep balls Sunday, with the throw to Wilson and a 21-yard out route to Bowe being his only completions.

Still, Smith knows it’s important for the Chiefs to air it out on occasion, if for no other reason than to keep defenses honest.

“If they’re going to challenge you like that and set and squat, you have to be able to show them you’ll do it,” Smith said. “You have to be effective down there.”

Smith, however, said the key is to uncork the deep ball when it’s there.

“They are built within the play call,” Smith said. “When you get presented the opportunity, you’re certainly not back there trying to force a bunch of deep balls. You’ve got to let them come. I thought we did a good job of that today. Stayed aggressive all day with the play calling, and I think the offensive line played great, then those guys making plays downfield.”

It also helped that the Chiefs’ offensive line managed to keep Smith clean for the first time in weeks. Oakland recorded a sack, but it was the only hit Smith had to absorb all day — a far cry from games against Arizona and Denver the last two weeks, when he took a total of eight sacks and 17 quarterback hits.

“I thought those guys played great today,” Smith said. “They played really, really solid. It’s an aggressive defense up front and those guys, when asked, I thought played really well. It starts up front with those guys, for sure.”

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