Blogging The Boys: Why is Alex Smith having such a monster season? Did something change or did it just begin to click?
Arrowhead Pride: It's the question everyone wants to know. First, I don't think there was some big dramatic change. Alex this season looks like Alex at his best in years past; we're just seeing it more consistently this year. He is going deep a little more often but the biggest difference is he's actually connecting on those more often. That improves his rating, his passing yards and more. You can see him stretching the field in his yards per attempt, which leads the league. It's also worth noting that he has some great playmakers on the team from Travis Kelce to Tyreek Hill to Kareem Hunt. All those guys can make defenders miss or blow by them so that only helps Alex's numbers. I think there's something to the idea that the drafting of Patrick Mahomes lit a fire under him. I'm not sure how much of a factor that is but I do believe it's some sort of factor. Finally, you can point to Alex being in this offense for a fifth year and Andy Reid continually tweaking the offense and adding in new wrinkles. This year's offense has a more college look at times and Alex came from Utah where they ran the spread so we know he can do that. I think it's partially Reid tapping into what he does best more. It's been fun to watch but as you can see with all the various reasons I suggested here, I really can't pinpoint exactly what it is.
BTB: Talk about Kareem Hunt. What kind of running back is he?
AP: He doesn't go down on first contact. He's very shifty and has what the Chiefs call contact balance. He gets hit and just has so much balance he doesn't go down the way you're used to seeing with other players. He bounces off of that. He forces so many missed tackles to turn that two yard gain into a six yard gain. He can catch the ball out of the backfield as you may have seen on opening night in New England with a long touchdown catch. On that catch he showed off his speed. He ran a 4.6 40-yard dash at the Combine which sounds pedestrian but go watch that play and tell me that looks like 4.6 speed.
BTB: The Chiefs defense seems to be an issue. What is going wrong on that side of the ball?
AP: They've played a bunch of good offenses so far this season so that's certainly part of it. I would point to the run defense which has been struggling for a couple of years now. Derrick Johnson, I hate to say it, isn't the same player he used to be in the run defense. The Chiefs often play with two down linemen because they drop so many in coverage so you can run on that pretty well. The Chiefs drop so many in coverage that their pass rush hasn't been great this season either. They've had their moments but also plenty of frustrating ones. That's a scheme thing that someone smarter than me (DC Bob Sutton) has decided to do. The Chiefs aren't getting quite as many turnovers as they have before (outside of that five turnover game on Monday night) but that's not a significant issue because they're still getting some. Another big reason is Eric Berry. It hurt losing him and you'll see that in a number of ways on Sunday. He helped in all areas, including run defense.
BTB: If you were the Cowboys OC and DC, how would you scheme for this game?
AP: If I were the Cowboys offensive coordinator, I would come in with three receivers and spread the Chiefs out and run from there. The Chiefs can be vulnerable to the deep ball so take your chances there and set them up with a double move. On defense, if I were the Cowboys I would take Travis Kelce out of the game. In Kelce's last nine 100-yard games, the Chiefs are 8-1. I believe he is the key. That said, you'll still have to watch out for Tyreek Hill deep and on the crossers as well as Kareem Hunt running the ball. If I had to pick one this week, however, I would stop Kelce.
BTB: What's the confidence level among the faithful? Is there a sense that this could be the Chiefs' year?
AP: The Chiefs lost two in a row and then beat the Broncos by a score of "only" 29-19 in a game it felt like they should've won 35-3. So, oddly, Chiefs fans aren't flying as high as you'd think. Part of the reason for that is we now look at everything in the context of the playoffs. We've done the being good in the regular season thing so everything that happens we wonder how it would affect the Chiefs in the playoffs. Turn it over against Denver? The Patriots won't turn it over in the postseason against the Chiefs. Lose to Pittsburgh? They own the Chiefs and would beat them in the postseason. Can't stop the run? Le'Veon Bell will destroy them in January. The Chiefs are 1-10 in their last 11 playoff games so Chiefs fans have earned their skepticism when it comes to the postseason. I don't think there's any solution here than going out and winning some playoff games. There is a feeling to me that this team has what it takes to make a run. That's as much about this team as the fact that there's not a true dominant force in the AFC this year (or the NFC, really). The Chiefs have beaten the good teams (Eagles) and they've beaten good teams on the road (Patriots). They're tested. They just need to prove it in January.
Thanks for the knowledge, Arrowhead Pride.