The Chiefs’ passing attack is from the West Coast philosophy. Most routes occur within 10 to 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, quarterback drops are short and ideally mistakes minimized.
All of that is happening for the Chiefs over the past month or so, especially when it comes to taking care of the ball.
On quarterback Alex Smith’s fifth pass attempt Sunday in the Chiefs’ 33-3 victory at Qualcomm Stadium, he tied a team record for passes without throwing an interception. Pass No. 233 without a pick fell incomplete to end the Chiefs’ first series and they punted.
The play that set the record turned out to be the longest completion of the day. Smith spotted running back Charcandrick West floating out of the backfield into clear space over the middle and the catch-and-run turned into a 47-yard play, resembling the 80-yarder they paired up on in last weekend’s victory at Denver.
That play that led to the Chiefs’ first touchdown and broke the mark of consecutive passes without an interception set by Steve DeBerg in 1990. For the day, Smith ran the record to 253 passes by completing 20-of-25 passes. His passer rating of 108.8 was his third 100-plus rating this season and 23rd in his career. His teams are 22-1 in those games.
Smith entered the weekend with the longest streak without an interception in the NFL, 50 more than the Patriots’ Tom Brady.
“It’s a mixture of a lot of things,” tight end Travis Kelce said, starting with Smith’s third year working with Andy Reid.
“They have a good understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. That’s been building from the first year they were together, and they’ve built a good chemistry with each other.”
Smith looks at it as a team record. A third straight game with the same offensive line has improved protection, giving him more time to throw. Familiarity with the offense and routes means few balls are thrown behind or above targets, balls that can be tipped or deflected into interceptions.
“I think it’s a matter of being on the same page,” Smith said.
The downside is the Chiefs rarely take shots downfield. Chunks in the passing game tend to be short throws in open space that turn into long plays.
Sunday, the Chiefs twice settled for Cairo Santos’ short field goals after drives stalled. The second one, just before halftime occurred after Kelce couldn’t hold on to what was originally ruled a touchdown reception, a 12-yard strike to the end zone.
“You never want to go out there not to throw an interception,” Smith said. “You’re out there to score points, move the chains and execute the offense. I think we’ve been doing that the last few weeks.”
Smith threw two interceptions in the home loss to the Broncos in the second game, and another one against the Packers the next week. Sunday marked the seventh game without a pick and he’s thrown seven touchdowns in that span.
“He’s done this his entire career, protect the ball and manage the game,” Kelce said. “He’s a pro. And we plan on keeping this thing going for a while.”