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Alex Smith will start season finale for first time in a long time

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Alex Smith has finally made it to his team’s last regular-season game. He’ll start at quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium, the first time he’s started a season finale since 2011.

He was benched late in the season in 2012, his last season with the San Francisco 49ers, in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Along with some other starts, he sat out the final game in San Diego in 2013, his first season in Kansas City, because the Chiefs were locked into their playoff seed.

He then missed the final regular-season game in 2014, also against the Chargers, because of a lacerated spleen. That’s the only game he’s missed because of injury since he joined the Chiefs.

Smith this season is one of 17 quarterbacks to start his team’s first 15 games. He indicated that being consistently available to his team is a source of pride.

“For sure," Smith said. “It’s not just quarterbacks, but all players. It’s tough. It’s a physical game and you work hard to take care of your body and stay in shape and do all the little things. Obviously, there’s a great deal of luck that goes into things like that.

“It’s certainly a source of pride for all players in team sports to be accountable, to be there every week, that your teammates can count on you week in and week out that you’re going to be there. Certainly a quarterback is no different."

There were times, particularly early this season, when it didn’t look like Smith would make it through the season. Kansas City’s pass protection was often shaky and Smith was being hit often.

Things have improved in that regard of late, but Smith has been sacked 44 times and the Chiefs are next to last in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.

Smith is still standing and he gave some credit to the NFL’s recent rule changes designed to protect quarterbacks.

“Certainly the knee thing, kind of a newer one, trying to keep the strike zone on a quarterback above the knees has helped," he said.