Yards after catch fuel Chiefs passing game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Stumbled across a statistic that was most surprising given the state of the Kansas City Chiefs’ passing attack: The Chiefs have more pass plays (nine) of 20 or more yards than their opponents (eight).

Difficult to believe given all of the Tony Romo-to-Dez Bryant and Michael Vick-to-Jason Avant bombs that have rained down on the Chiefs. Even more difficult to believe given that the Chiefs have featured short passes almost exclusively.

But there it is, in black and white. About 58 percent of Kansas City’s receiving yardage (386 of 669) has come after the catch. The Chiefs have done a decent job of turning some of those short passes into long gains and if that continues, it bodes well for their passing game and offense as a whole.

Protection problems have often forced quarterback Alex Smith to unload the ball to a receiver running a shorter pattern, but the short passing game is also mostly by design. It allows the Chiefs to be efficient (Smith has yet to throw an interception) and play to Smith’s strengths.

It also plays to the strengths of many of the Chiefs receivers. Dwayne Bowe’s single biggest skill is his ability to run with the ball after the catch, as he showed on his touchdown catch against Dallas two weeks ago.

Last week in Philadelphia, the Chiefs had an astounding 194 yards after their receivers made their 22 catches. Nobody did better than their fastest receiver, Donnie Avery, who had 98 of his 141 yards after the catch and 80 yards after the catch on his four third-down receptions.

Other than Smith’s low interception rate, there’s little else remarkable about Kansas City’s passing game. Smith is around the middle of the league in attempts, completions, completion percentage, touchdowns and passer rating. He is toward the bottom in yards and average gain.

The only thing keeping it afloat is the ability of the Chiefs receivers to run with the ball after they catch it.

“It’s a quarterback’s best friend," Smith said. “You love [those plays]. You’ve got to have balance. We need that in the passing game here and there. We had a lot of yards after the catch, so that’s great."