It’s hard to beat Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano’s efficiency.
In his last four games, Fasano has been targeted seven times. He’s caught all seven passes, with three going for touchdowns.
Against the New York Jets Fasano even caught one throw that was not intended for him when a deflected pass meant for Dwayne Bowe landed in Fasano’s hands as he was on the ground finishing a block. Fasano caught the ball and rolled into the end zone, sparking a victory.
“I’d like those plays to come in wins,” said Fasano, lamenting the fact that his touchdown catches of 19 yards at Oakland and 20 yards against Denver came in defeat.
Fasano might have been even more productive in recent weeks, but he suffered a knee injury that limited him to one catch on Nov. 9 at Buffalo, and he sat out the next week against Seattle. Fasano participated in just two plays the following week at Oakland but caught passes on each, including the touchdown.
Fasano’s workload increased to 17 plays against Denver, and the Chiefs are hopeful he can contribute even more this Sunday at Arizona.
“He’s kind of getting himself back feeling better,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid. “He’s always been a good player. He’s somebody that the quarterback (Alex Smith) trusts.”
Indeed, in a season in which Smith has yet to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver through 12 games, the tight ends have been his go-to guys. Fasano’s four touchdown catches have come on 23 receptions. Second-year tight end Travis Kelce has four touchdown catches on 44 receptions.
“Tight end is important in this offense, not only to move the chains, but to be a safety valve for (Smith),” Fasano said. “He takes advantage of that.”
Smith and Fasano, both 30, joined the Chiefs a day apart in March 2013 when Smith was acquired in a trade with San Francisco, and Fasano signed as an unrestricted free agent from Miami. They found a comfort level together right away.
“Anthony over the last two years … as far as us working together, I feel really good about us seeing the same things, talking a lot, reading his body language, anticipating throws and then trusting him,” Smith said. “He’s a guy you can really trust a lot of throws with.
“You’ve even seen the last two years the types of catches that he has made in traffic, with people around him. It’s certainly one of his strengths, so as a quarterback you feel good throwing those balls into some of those tighter windows.”
Fasano has been reliable in the red zone throughout his career. In his five seasons at Miami during 2008-12, he caught 23 touchdown passes, including two each in games against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in 2008 and 2011.
“He’s a great route runner,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. “He’s smart … he’s good in that 5-to-10-yard range. He’s a big target down there. He understands the scheme and concepts of what we want to get done. It’s that security blanket for Alex to be able to look for those big guys in and around and over the ball.”
Fasano’s last two touchdown catches came off play-action fakes, including a third-and-1 call at Oakland. The Chiefs like to use a lot of multiple-tight end packages, and now that Fasano is returning to 100 percent health, the club can do more pairing him with Kelce in the lineup.
“Earlier in the year, mid-year, you saw some different packages, and putting us in different positions,” Fasano said of playing alongside Kelce. “And as soon as I get more and more healthy, I think that will continue to grow.
“Our roles to complement each other and create mismatches for defense is our goal.”
And as long as Fasano, Kelce and running back Jamaal Charles, who also has four touchdown receptions, can get in the end zone, Smith may not have to worry whether a wide receiver ever catches a touchdown pass.
“Certainly, we’re concerned about scoring points and scoring touchdowns,” Smith said. “We’re not really worried about who scores, it’s just that we do score. And we’ve got a lot of different guys that can do it and a lot of different ways.
“You see Jamaal lined up as a receiver and catching the ball, and there are not many backs making that kind of a play in the NFL on a starting corner. So that kind of will remain our focus: just spreading the ball around and hopefully everyone is getting in on the action.”