KANSAS CITY, Mo. – My ESPN colleague Kevin Siefert suggests in his always insightful weekly look at quarterback play around the NFL that Alex Smith’s shoulder sprain couldexplain the Kansas City Chiefs’ dink--passing game in last week’s win over the St. Louis Rams.
Smith threw just one pass that went more than 10 yards down the field, in the process becoming the first quarterback to win a game that way since Miami’s Ryan Tannehill did it midway through the 2012 season.
Smith injured his shoulder while being sacked late in the first half. He remained in the game until the final moments of the 34-7 victory before being replaced by Chase Daniel.
I’m not sure the Chiefs were protecting an injured player as much as doing things the way they do them. Their game plan didn’t change after the injury, as opposed to before. The Chiefs have used a short passing game all season. Smith has had similar games this season where’s he has attempted few passes down the field with a September game against the Miami Dolphins being a prime example.
Pass protection has been a problem for the Chiefs, who allow more sacks per pass play than all but four other teams. Their longest pass play this season is 33 yards. They are the only team in the NFL without a pass play of longer than 33 yards. Washington, the league leader, has 15 such plays.
The Chiefs are the only team this season without a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. Against the Rams, 17 of Smith’s 28 pass attempts were targeted for a tight end or running back. Take Dwayne Bowe from the equation and 17 of his 22 passes went to either a back or tight end.
Here’s what Smith had to say after the Rams game about the short passing game:
“I felt like (the Rams have) an aggressive defense at times and with some of that stuff that we had called, it dictated that it went to the backs and tight ends,’’ he said. “I felt like they had two rookie corners that they weren’t going to come up and press and they weren’t going to play aggressive and they were going to help. I felt like they helped the young kid, (cornerback Marcus Roberson), all day today with the safeties over the top. That was hard.
“It kind of felt like that because (cornerback Janoris) Jenkins didn’t play and they had the young kid in that they were going to help him, they were going to play off and just the way that ended up happening, it ended up dictating some of the backs and tight ends.”