As the Chiefs have amassed 70 points in their last two games, including a season-high output in their 37-27 AFC West-clinching victory over San Diego on Sunday, you’ve gasped at Tyreek Hill returning a punt 95 yards against the Chargers a week after his 70-yard TD run against Denver.
You’re still dazzled by Travis Kelce’s 11 catches for 160 yards against the Broncos … even if he did have just one catch for 8 yards on Sunday.
No one will ever forget the spectacle of Dontari Poe’s touchdown pass against Denver, and no doubt you appreciated on Sunday the importance of Charcandrick West’s 116 total yards and a 42-yard gain by Albert Wilson and fine catches by Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley.
But there’s been another subtle-but-substantial factor at play in this suddenly percolating offense.
And it lends the Chiefs a dimension that could be pivotal to their playoff hopes when they start postseason play in two weeks at Arrowhead Stadium.
A year after quarterback Alex Smith romped for 498 yards, a seemingly repressed or regressed version of him had rushed for a measly 67 yards through the Chiefs first 14 games.
Now, Smith has rushed for 67 yards in the last two games — including on Sunday a 5-yard run for his career-best fifth rushing touchdown and a 9-yard scramble to set up his touchdown pass to West on a day Smith completed 21 of 28 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns.
While he ran for just 21 yards overall, the run – and threat of running — augments his game in a way that makes the Chiefs that much harder to contain at a time when their offensive woes have been supplanted by rhythm and a seeming wealth of options.
“It’s something that I really enjoy, (and) I feel like I can still do …,” Smith said. “For whatever reason, it felt like there was a big lull there in the middle of the season where I wasn’t getting as much done with my legs.
“Those can be difference-makers in games, I think.”
It’s hard to know exactly what was behind Smith’s apparent tentative-itis with running earlier in the season.
It’s hard to imagine having to leave the game at Indianapolis twice to undergo the concussion protocol didn’t have some at least subconscious impact on Smith, who sat out the Chiefs next game against Jacksonville.
But it’s also true he wasn’t finding, or creating, many opportunities before that.
Any number of times, it appeared there were moments he would have seized in the past but just wouldn’t now.
That facet of his play has been part of the reason Smith has been a very good postseason quarterback — even if he is entirely underappreciated:
Smith in six career postseason games has completed 112 of 186 passes for 1,309 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception.
In his four with the Chiefs, he’s completed 76 of 118 for 814 yards with six TDs and one interception.
But Smith also has rushed for 198 yards on 29 carries in six career playoff games, including 22 times for 128 yards in three with the Chiefs, and that’s why he’s been more complicated to contain than is widely perceived.
Reduced to one-dimensional, Smith goes from being a good quarterback to ordinary.
With all elements at his disposal, especially for a team with a wealth of assets around him, he’s downright problematic for opposing defenses.
There’s no doubt he’s good enough to take the Chiefs to the Super Bowl if all other branches of the operation live up to what they’re supposed to do … though an odd X-factor suddenly lurks in Smith’s game.
For a player who to some degree is risk-averse and takes enormous pride in not making critical errors, Smith has thrown more interceptions this season (eight) than he has since throwing 10 in 2010 with San Francisco.
The most egregious and damaging were the two he threw in the end zone in home losses to Tampa Bay and Tennessee, but on Sunday the Chargers resurfaced in a game on the verge of becoming a blowout with Jahleel Addae’s remarkable 90-yard pick six off Smith to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 20-17.
It’s true that Mitch Morse’s snap to Smith was low and to his left, surely contributing to his pass being deflected by Melvin Ingram.
And you could argue that Mitchell Schwartz might have locked up Ingram.
But however it developed, it was a play that the Chiefs can ill-afford to have happen in the playoffs and one that left Smith feeling “pretty disgusted” and “kicking myself.”
Something else came of it, though, too.
Instead of drooping, the Chiefs promptly went 60 yards on 12 plays in retaliation, giving them a 27-17 lead on Smith’s second TD pass to West.
“The thing I think I was most proud of was how we responded that next drive …,” Smith said. “That was a big answer for us.”
So is Smith feeling his spots to take off again.
“We’re not telling him to run …,” coach Andy Reid said. “But if the opportunity is there, then you go ahead and take off. And he knows that.
“He knows how to do that.”
Just in time to give the Chiefs a key added dimension.