Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith felt the uncertainty that accompanies every season opener.
But as the new quarterback playing for a new head coach in a lineup with nine new starters and a roster with 30 new players, Smith could admit his trepidation after the new-look Chiefs’ opened the 2013 season on Sunday with a 28-2 mauling of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Preseason is preseason,” Smith said of the past four weeks of tune-ups under coach Andy Reid. “It’s more than practice, but it’s not the same as the regular season. So we didn’t know what to expect ”
They certainly didn’t expect to rewrite the record books in coach Andy Reid’s first game as head coach.
But with Smith, the major acquisition of the off-season in a trade with San Francisco, playing efficiently and throwing two touchdown passes and the defense not allowing Jacksonville to cross midfield until midway in the fourth quarter, it was a day in which:
• The Chiefs won the first 28-2 game in NFL history.
• The Chiefs won their most lopsided opener in 50 years, or since beating Denver 59-7 in 1963 in the club’s first season in Kansas City.
• Jacksonville lost by the largest margin on opening day in its 19 years as an NFL franchise.
• Reid became first coach to win his first game as Chiefs head coach since Frank Gansz in 1987.
“This always gets talked about the new faces, the new system, new guys coming in,” said Smith, “but once the regular season starts, no one cares. Those are excuses. But when we started the OTAs and the off-season program back in April, you’re playing catch-up. You’re making up for lost time , and we don’t have the luxury of having been together with five years.”
Smith made up for that time early, directing the Chiefs to first-half touchdowns in all three of their trips in the scoring zone.
Smith’s two touchdown passes were a 5-yard flip to newcomer Donnie Avery, who broke a tackle and glided to the end zone; and a 3-yard strike in the back of the end zone to Junior Hemingway, who spent all but one week on the practice squad last season. Jamaal Charles added the third offensive touchdown with a 2-yard run midway through the second quarter for a 21-2 lead.
“You could really see things changed from last year how we moved the ball up the field with the offense and also did a great job of getting the ball back,” said Charles, who rushed for 77 yards before exiting the game with a quadriceps injury.
The Chiefs spotted Jacksonville a 2-0 lead in the first quarter when Jaguars’ linebacker J.T. Thomas blew through the punt protection and blocked Dustin Colquitt’s kick out of the end zone for a safety.
But the Chiefs kept their composure, and after Dexter McCluster’s 36-yard punt return set up the offense at the Jacksonville 24, Smith went to work.
“Were we perfect out there?” asked Smith, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 173 yards with no interceptions. “Heck no. But finding a way to win is the most important thing. The best stat for us was efficiency in the red zone. When you get your opportunities down there, if you can take advantage of those and get sevens, those are game changers.
“We left some out there in the second half, but because we were efficient in the first half, it allowed us to jump out to a lead, and our defense played lights out.”
The defense also contributed to the scoring when outside linebacker Tamba Hali stepped in front of a pass in the flat by Gabbert and returned it 10 yards for the second interception and first touchdown of his eight-year career.
The Chiefs battered Gabbert, sacking him six times and forcing him out of the game after he reinjured his fractured thumb and required 15 stitches. The Jaguars, like the Chiefs, went 2-14 last year and also cleaned house by hiring a new coach and general manager who brought in 26 new players.
But they clearly are behind the Chiefs in rebuilding a once competitive franchise.
“Everybody pulled together and did a nice job,” Reid said. “There were some highs, there were some lows. I thought they fought through the lows. They didn’t get too highs on the highs. They kept playing hard and aggressive football.
“You want to win every game you possibly can in the National Football League. That’s what you work so stinking hard every week, and you cherish it.”