Don't Kill The Mellinger

September 18, 2013

Chiefs 17, Cowboys 16 Replay: Examining Smith’s subtleties, Poe’s versatility

Every week after a Chiefs game, I bring to you some looks that come through only after watching the game a few more times. Including: Alex Smith is a better athlete than you might think, and Dontari Poe’s first sack was absurd.

Don't Kill the Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

Like every week after a Chiefs game, through the (expensive) miracle that is NFL Rewind, I bring to you some looks that come through only after watching a few more times.

- Alex Smith is a better athlete than you might think. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, and it wasn’t ALL because of his smarts and a relatively weak class^.

^ Nobody knew Aaron Rodgers would turn into Aaron Rodgers.

This comes through most often with what football people sometimes call "functional mobility," which basically means that he can escape pressure, move out of the pocket and extend a play when necessary. It also means that he can pick up yards on the ground, but you should know that people inside the organization understand this isn’t something they can overuse.

- I may be too scarred from the last few years to remember the good times with Todd Haley and Charlie Weis^, but one thing that sticks out from Andy Reid so far is the most creative playcalling the Chiefs have had since Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders.

^ OK, the good season.

I’m thinking in particular about Reid’s use of Jamaal Charles. The best example of this may’ve come on the Chiefs’ first drive, when they got close to the goal line and split Charles to the left for a quick slant. It was similar to the play they ran in Jacksonville, just the other side of the field, and it would’ve been a touchdown but Smith’s throw came in low. They scored the touchdown on a route I don’t think Charles has ever run in the NFL, when he lined up in the backfield, behind the left tackle, and sort of ran through the line of scrimmage to the right side uncovered.

- I really have been impressed with Smith, and after each of the first two games, I’ve been more impressed with him after the rewatch than I was seeing it live. The pass referenced above aside, Smith is making so many subtle plays, like hitting a guy in stride so he can pick up an extra five yards. He does lack zip on deep balls — BJ Kissel does a nice breakdown of Smith’s deep passing


— but we’re not talking about Chad Pennington.

- Against the Cowboys, one of those subtle advantages Smith gave the Chiefs was that functional mobility. Especially early, the offensive line was having a devil of a time protecting, and Smith consistently made everything of it that he could.

- Bob Sutton made a calculated gamble about letting Dez Bryant eat against Brandon Flowers in an effort to stop everything else the Cowboys do well. As Terez points out


, Sutton shifted help Flowers’ way late in the game, but for the most part, focused on stopping Jason Witten and forcing Tony Romo to throw quicker than he’d like (and, in turn, Bryant to run shorter routes than he’d like).

- Dontari Poe’s first sack was absurd, a quick swim move, almost like a point guard breaking his man’s ankles on a crossover. Seriously, it’s amazing. I watched it probably 12 times on my own, and then maybe 10 more with the gif Terez put together


. That man is 340 pounds, guys.

- There’s been

so much Poe breakdown — my favorite, though it’s breaking down a game against the Jaguars of the FCS, was Terez’s last week

— so I don’t want to do too much here. Just a quick point that Poe isn’t just a mindless drone out there, bull-rushing the center and happy to take on double teams. From what I see, he’s also very good at reading screen passes and making plays away from what you might usually think is a nose tackle’s "zone."

- DeMarcus Ware’s first sack looked like a miscommunication. He just went in unblocked. No telling what the assignments were, but it was from Eric Fisher’s side.

- Justin Houston was quiet, but I did see at least two times there probably should have been a holding penalty.

- In

last week’s rewatch

, I pointed out a few specific mistakes that Smith made. In particular, he got lucky on one particular pass that could’ve been intercepted. The same thing happened against the Cowboys, at the end of the second quarter, when he threw a quick button hook to Sean McGrath. Dallas linebacker Bruce Carter read the play, jumped the route, and dropped what would’ve been an almost certain pick-6. It’s the kind of thing that’s easy to forget about afterward, but that would’ve drastically changed the complexion of the game and perhaps the outcome. It’s also the kind of thing that might stick out because Smith just isn’t making many of these mistakes.

- The Chiefs were very aggressive against the run, which is easier done while not committing so many resources to Dez Bryant. The Chiefs held the Cowboys to 37 yards rushing, which was Dallas’ lowest total since last October and the lowest total for a Chiefs opponent since November of 2010.

- Dontari Poe’s second sack looked like a miscommunication on the Dallas offensive line.

- Here’s that functional mobility again, when Smith does a good job avoiding pressure after Eric Fisher got trucked. The play that ended with 31 yard pass to Donnie Avery. Again, for more detail, look at

Kissel’s breakdown


- Man, Jamaal Charles just emasculated Claiborne. Lowered his shoulder and left Claiborne like road kill. Christian Okoye would’ve been proud.

Charles is absolutely right

: he doesn’t get enough credit for his toughness.

- Dwayne Bowe’s touchdown catch is another good example of Andy Reid’s creative playcalling. He ran a very patient route, waiting for McGrath to run an out pattern. That tempted Dallas’ Sean Lee and Justin Durant to follow McGrath toward the sideline, leaving them out of position and the middle of the field open for Bowe.

- Ron Parker’s strip-sack-and-recovery came when Sutton sent more guys than Dallas could block. I’ve taken a show-me stance on Sutton’s much talked about "attacking style," but this is encouraging so far.

- I don’t know that Bryant would’ve scored, but it was a perfect pass. Kendrick Lewis had an angle, and might’ve stopped him, but the Cowboys probably could’ve had at least a field goal.

- That said, the Cowboys weren’t the only ones to make mistakes. Like, a third down in the second half when Bruce Carter when in untouched for a sack that pushed the Chiefs out of field goal range. NFL games are chaos, and nobody is ever perfect. Nearly always, playing the "well if MY team wouldn’t have done this ONE thing at that ONE moment we totally would’ve won" ignores that the other team could say the exact same thing. Hussain Abdullah dropped what would’ve been a spectacular interception in the fourth quarter, but nobody’s really talking about that as a missed opportunity.

- In the fourth quarter, it looked like Dave Toub wanted to set up a wall down the right sideline to spark a big punt return. It worked the week before in Jacksonville, but this time the Chiefs’ blockers didn’t get over fast enough.

- Dustin Colquitt flexed after the punt that was downed at the one, the one where Cooper got called for illegal touching. Does he do this all the time?

- The Chiefs had a winning drive in the fourth quarter, which Vahe wrote about

here. Dallas stacked the line of scrimmage for much of the game, and Charles didn’t have the kind of Jamaal F. Charles game we’ve become accustomed to. But if the Chiefs — and the offensive line should get a lot of credit here — can continue to get yards on the ground when they need them, that’s just as important.

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