Smith had taken offense to a hit by San Diego Chargers safety Jahleel Addae after he had carried on the read-option and had more than a few words for his opponent. Soon, other players from both sides were involved and for a moment the situation appeared ready to get out of hand.
The coolest head of the bunch belonged to a rookie: Chiefs center Mitch Morse. Rather than attack any of the Chargers and perhaps pick up a penalty, Morse calmly pulled Smith away from the gathering and the situation quickly settled down.
The Chiefs, in large part because of Morse’s peacekeeping efforts, avoided a penalty and loss of field position. Two plays later, Smith threw a 44-yard pass to Albert Wilson for the only touchdown in a game the Chiefs would go on to win by seven points.
For that, the Chiefs can thank Morse, who has wisdom beyond his years.
“Yeah, he’s got that about him,’’ Smith said. “I think that’s why he’s playing in there as a rookie, making all the calls. He’s a pretty cool customer with all the stuff going on and that’s what you want in a center.”
The situation can be a delicate one for a lineman who wants to stick up for his teammate. Twice this year, veteran Chiefs offensive linemen have picked up penalties for aggressively defending a teammate. Eric Fisher was penalized in an October game against the Steelers for defending Charcandrick West and Jeff Allen was flagged in a November game against the Lions for defending Smith.
Morse took a different tack. He focused on his teammate, Smith, rather than the opponent. He put his arm around Smith after ushering him away from the Chargers and had some calming words for his veteran quarterback.
It was a veteran move from a player who has yet to complete his first NFL season.
“I didn’t want anybody to throw cheap shots at my guy,’’ Morse said. “Alex is a veteran who knows how to handle himself. I was just there as extra security. I just wanted to make sure he had his head level. He always does.
“He’s just a super competitor. We love that about Alex.’’
In the bigger picture, Smith needs to do a better job of staying away from trouble as it relates to the opponent. In the Lions game, he got into a little shoving match after a play with Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah. Allen’s penalty followed.
That’s no place for a quarterback to be. He’s fortunate his teammates, and in particular Morse, have his back.
“We’ve got a good crew, really competitive guys,’’ Smith said. “Mitch has been a big part of that.’’