On a day in which he was sacked a season-high six times and hit a season-high nine times, one might think Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith would affirm the suggestion that the experience was similar to one opposing quarterbacks have often had at Arrowhead Stadium this season.
But in the aftermath of a 23-17 victory over the Browns on Sunday, Smith made it clear that no matter how many sacks he took Sunday, he never once felt like a quarterback being terrorized by the league’s No. 1 defense.
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“Today? Nope,” Smith said. “Actually, when I saw that number (of sacks), I was kind of surprised.”
Smith, as you might expect from someone who had just become the first quarterback in NFL history to ever start 8-0 with a new team, then proceeded to deflect some of the blame from his offensive line.
He said he took his last sack, which came with three minutes and 57 seconds left, because he wanted the Browns to burn a timeout (they did). He also accepted responsibility for some of the sacks, particularly three that came on third down, saying he held the ball a little longer than normal in hopes of jumpstarting the offense.
“Third down, you’re trying to stand in there, you’re trying to make plays,” Smith said. “Of course protection is important, but I don’t think that was the sole thing.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid admitted he wasn’t terribly happy with the losses Smith took.
“There were too many sacks, obviously,” Reid said ― but the funny thing is, the Chiefs easily could have surrendered more if it weren’t for their quarterback’s scrambling ability. Smith again displayed his knack for extending plays with his feet, as he ran for 40 yards on six carries, including scrambles of 4 and 12 yards that each converted third downs.
“That dude definitely has some escapability,” said left guard Jeff Allen. “He makes a lot of plays with his feet. I had no clue before he came here that he can move the way he does.”
Allen said he obviously doesn’t want to make any mistakes, but when he does, it’s nice to know Smith, 29, gives him room for error, and left tackle Branden Albert, the elder statesman of the group, agreed.
“It’s a good thing he can move around sometimes when things break down,” Albert said. “He’s got the escapability to get out of there and help you not get a sack.”
Yet, there were times Sunday when even Smith couldn’t bail them out. Albert was beat for a sack one-on-one by Browns rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, while rookie right tackle Eric Fisher also got beat for a sack on an outside move by outside linebacker Paul Kruger. Center Rodney Hudson was also beat for a sack by nose tackle Phil Taylor on a particularly nasty move that rivaled that of any of his teammates’ on Sunday.
“Stuff happens,” Albert said. “You pass the ball a lot, you’re gonna get beat sometime. For the most part, I did a good job of (stopping) their pass rush. I just got beat one play. That’s just like a cornerback getting beat for a touchdown. One play, that’s all it takes.”
That said, members of the line also appreciate Smith’s refusal to criticize them after a bad play.
“It’s always about the next play with Alex,” Allen said. “He knows we’re doing our best to do our jobs, so he’s not gonna get all over us for getting physically beat. It’s the NFL, it happens sometimes.”
Right guard Jon Asamoah agreed, adding that Smith’s demeanor makes it easier to want to block for him.
“Alex is great about it,” Asamoah said. “We beat ourselves up more than anybody.”
The Chiefs did win, so there’s plenty of solace in that. But after the number of sacks and hits they allowed, Asamoah admitted there’s room for improvement along the line, even with a quarterback that occasionally bails them out with his legs.
“We’re not even close to where we should be,” Asamoah said. “As a group, we’re not where we want to be. So we’ve got to keep working, grinding and getting better.”