KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t led the NFL in passing yardage since 1976, when at 5-9 they needed to throw often to overcome their woeful defense.
They haven’t finished first in total offense since 2005, the final season of the high-scoring Dick Vermeil era.
There’s no telling how they’ll finish this season, but the Chiefs started by showing some offensive might in their 42-27 win over the New England Patriots. The Chiefs went for 537 yards, which is tied for ninth-best in team history and their high in four-plus seasons under coach Andy Reid.
Quarterback Alex Smith threw for 368 yards, his second-highest regular-season total in those four-plus seasons. Smith threw four touchdown passes, including throws of 75 yards to Tyreek Hill and 78 yards to Kareem Hunt.
Perhaps the Chiefs just had a big game in exploiting some favorable matchups. Perhaps it’s who they are offensively this season.
“You hope to always have the ability that when it’s there, you can take advantage of it, and I do think that we have that ability," Smith said. “Certainly there’s a lot that goes into it: timing, playcalling, hitting those things and timing them well. It’s not an exact science."
The Chiefs won’t always need the offense and the passing game they showed in New England. They were behind for much of the game and trailed 27-21 entering the fourth quarter.
But the passing game has frequently failed the Chiefs when they needed it the most in recent years. Smith, for instance, threw for just 172 yards in last season’s playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hunt, the rookie running back, is the only significant offensive addition from last season. Hunt was quite an addition against the Patriots, rushing for 148 yards, catching passes worth 98 more and scoring three touchdowns.
The Chiefs haven’t had a versatile, big-play type of back since Jamaal Charles was injured early in the 2015 season. Hunt’s presence gives the Chiefs a chance to be more consistent than they’ve been for some time.
“You want to be multidimensional, right?" Smith said. “You want to be able to spread the ball vertically. You want to be able to run, pass and spread it out horizontally, as well. You want to be able to be good at all these different things. Inside the tackles, outside the tackles, all those things. You want to be well-rounded. I think that makes you tough to defend.
“I do think we have the ability, but each week is a different challenge personnel-wise, scheme-wise. Next week will be a totally different challenge, and we will have to try to find a way to overcome that and beat that. Just because you do it one night, doesn’t mean it will just carry over. You have to find a way to beat the next opponent and the unique challenge they present."