In this week’s Chiefs Blitz, The Star’s Terez A. Paylor answers five postgame Twitter questions about Alex Smith, the uninspiring defense and more, plus the stat of the day in the Chiefs’ 19-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
1. What happens in the red zone causing the offense to be so poor? Play call? Execution? Predictability? All the above? #AskTerez — @Brent102Fire
It’s everything you listed … except predictability. I think we can say, for sure, that the Chiefs’ red-zone play calling is anything but that. For every hilarious/amusing instance we get of “Hungry Pig Right,” we get a side-to-side play call — like the jet sweep to tight end Travis Kelce — that doesn’t work. The play calling in the red zone has backfired more often than not, and the unpredictable, horizontal nature of the goal-line play calls is either an indication of a lack of faith in the offensive line or an unnecessary preoccupation with being clever. Good luck getting a real answer on what it truly is, but it’s hard to imagine any other explanation.
2. How can an already cautious QB be effective in the red zone going forward? — @Bozzwell61
Good question, but the answer is simple and twofold. First off, the offensive line has not generated enough push in certain goal-line situations; remember, the Chiefs had first-and-goal at the 2 late in the first quarter and were stuffed on two consecutive running plays. So the onus is on those guys up front to continue to get stronger and work their run-block technique. Unfortunately for them, most of those strength gains won’t come until the offseason, so in the meantime, the onus will simply be on Chiefs coach Andy Reid to dial up better plays in the red zone, and for quarterback Alex Smith to execute them better. For now, that’s all they can do, barring a shake up on the line. Shrug.
3. I’d really like to hear your Alex take, Terez. Is there an excuse? Or is he just not good? I want to believe, but … — @lorenmleamy
Alex has not been good the last two weeks. Let’s just call it what it is. He absolutely needs to find the same form he did down the stretch last year, when he tortured teams with his legs and became a playmaker. So is it a concern that teams have found a way to take that away this year? Yes. And is it significant? Yes. But let’s also remember this; he’s coming off some sort of “head” trauma against Indianapolis, and he did look better Sunday than he did last week against Carolina. Let’s not go overboard here, folks. Calm down.
4. Is Marcus Peters really that important to the defense? Same question for Jeremy Maclin on offense. — @Shimerda
Yes. Both players were missed, but you saw what the defense is like without Peters, and it was not pretty. Not because the corners are terrible — Steven Nelson is having a nice season and will compete, while Kenny Acker and Phillip Gaines have their moments — but Peters brings an undeniable fire, enthusiasm and knack for playmaking that was sorely missed Sunday. The guy has accounted for eight of the Chiefs’ 23 turnovers, which is absurd. Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston even admitted the Bucs were prepared to avoid him, had Peters played. In today’s NFL, a cornerback who scares offenses like that is impossible to replace. As for Maclin, the Chiefs miss his intensity almost as much as they miss his ability. They really, really need Maclin and Smith to rekindle their 2015 connection if they want to go anywhere in the playoffs.
5. On a scale of 1-10, how concerned should Chiefs fans be heading into next week’s game at Denver? — @cbrockmeier126
I’d put it at a solid nine. It’s a winnable game, but it’s a rivalry showdown, at night, and Denver will be coming off a bye. The quarterback, Trevor Siemian, doesn’t scare anyone, but that Denver pass rush — featuring the Chiefs’ arch-nemesis, Von Miller — sure does. The Broncos will be rested, fired up and ready to avenge their embarrassing 29-13 home loss to the Chiefs last season. That defense has a bunch of aggressive dudes, and it will be hunting Smith and looking to send a message, just like it did in the season opener against Carolina this year. The offense had better improve by leaps and bounds this week, or Denver is going to run roughshod over it.
406 — The number of days it had been, prior to Sunday, since the Chiefs last lost at home, in an 18-17 loss to Chicago on Oct. 11, 2015.