Alex Smith wanted to give his buddy, Delanie Walker, an opportunity to make a play.
So in the second quarter of the AFC’s 24-23 win over the NFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday at Camping World Stadium, Smith — whose proclivity for protecting the football is well-established at this point — did something very un-Alex like; he chucked a jump ball in the red zone, despite the fact Walker was blanketed.
It was intercepted.
“He was trying to give me a play,” said Walker, a tight end for the Titans who played with Smith in San Francisco for seven seasons.
When they walked off the field, Smith told Walker he was going to give him another shot. On the next drive, following a 44-yard completion to Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, Smith delivered on his promise, dropping an easy 4-yard touchdown pass right in Walker’s mitts.
“It came right open,” said Walker, who played at Central Missouri. “That’s my guy … we’ve had that chemistry. You’ve got to remember, we played with each other for seven seasons. So when we get back with each other, it’s normal. It’s like, back of my head, I know it.”
The play ended up being the highlight of the day for Smith, who finished 7 of 10 for 131 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. It was also the highlight of the day for the Chiefs as Smith’s comrades, receiver/return man Tyreek Hill and running back Kareem Hunt, were held to quiet days.
Hill finished with a catch for 18 yards, but he fumbled his only punt return of the game — the rainy weather didn’t help —which led to a NFC field goal in the second quarter.
Hunt carried the ball four times for 4 yards and caught three passes for 9 yards while splitting time with Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy and Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell.
But little of that mattered to either player, both of whom seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience.
“I got to play a good football game with a bunch of good people,” Hunt said.
Hill, meanwhile, was more excited about the additional prize money he and the rest of the AFC players received for winning — $64,000 per man, compared to $32,000 per man for the losing NFC squad.
“Yeah, it’s always fun when you win 30k more,” Hill said with a laugh.
Especially for someone like Hill, who is still playing on his rookie contract and isn’t eligible for a contract extension until after next season.
Smith, meanwhile, has made more than $106 million in his career, so the monetary difference between winning and losing is paltry. And appropriately enough, like several other veterans who have been here before, he hurried out of the locker room following the victory to rejoin his family.
But in the end, the game may still end up having some meaning for Smith. After a season in which he set career-highs in passing yards (4,042), touchdowns (26) and passer rating (104.7), his touchdown throw to Walker ensured that if the Chiefs do elect to trade him this offseason — which is possible, though not a guarantee (even though the cash-strapped club can save $17 million in cap room by doing so) — his final memory in a Chiefs helmet would be a positive one.
“He’s composed, he knows how to play the game, he understands what we need and he gets the job done,” Walker said, when asked why he has such affection for Smith. “That’s what you want from a quarterback.”
So it should come as no surprise that after the score — and before Smith slipped on his red baseball cap, signifying the end of his night — the two shared one final laugh.
“You always do this,” Smith told Walker after the score.
“You’re my boy, that’s all,” Walker replied.