Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith wasn’t sacked until his very last pass of the game on Sunday.
And that one was purpose, as Smith chose to take the sack and keep the clock running as opposed to throwing an incompletion at the end of the Chiefs’ 24-10 victory over the New York Jets.
Keeping Smith upright was paramount against a Jets defensive front that came into the game with 24 sacks — tied with the Chiefs for fourth-most in the NFL — and because Smith was playing with a tender shoulder.
It might have been the line’s best pass-protection effort of the season.
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“You always want to protect the quarterback, no matter what,” said center Rodney Hudson. “It always helps when the quarterback has a clean pocket to throw from.”
Making the job more difficult, is Jets head coach Rex Ryan is known for exotic defenses with blitzes coming from all directions. But tackles Ryan Harris, Eric Fisher, guards Mike McGlynn and rookie Zach Fulton and Hudson kept the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson (4.5 sacks), Calvin Pace (4.0 and Sheldon Richardson (3.5) away from Smith.
“Their defensive line, I think, if not the best, is one of the best in the National Football League,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid. “They’ve got explosive players. Our offensive line and the pass game did a pretty good job. They were worried about the run game … it took just a bit off the play-action pass rush.”
Jets defenders were credited with just three hurries of Smith, including Jason Babin’s sack on the Chiefs’ final offensive play. The only other time Smith was hit while throwing, the Jets were called for illegal contact on the incompletion, giving the Chiefs a first down.
“It certainly starts with the guys up front, setting the tone,” Smith said. “The protection unit being on the same page anytime you face a front like that, that likes to create chaos. It goes out to the perimeter unit … adjustments get made on the fly. I thought collectively we did a great job handling that today.”
Protection was so good, in fact, that Smith, who injured the shoulder when sacked on consecutive plays last week against St. Louis, did not have to scramble once out of the pocket.
“We made an extra emphasis on it,” Harris said. “Alex is tough as nails, but the thing we can do to make sure to be successful down this stretch of the season is to continue to run the ball well and keep him clean.”