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After two games under Andy Reid, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has passed for 396 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. (AP)
New town. New team. New quarterback. Some new offensive wrinkles, too.
When Andy Reid left Philadelphia for Kansas City, he said it was time for a change. He said he meant it. In two games this season, some of those changes have been applied to the Chiefs' offense – an updated, semi-tweaked version of what Reid did here for 14 years.
“You go back and evaluate everything and look at things and where the game is today,” Reid said. “There are still some fundamental things we’ve really focused on and the guys have really done a great job with. Those other things are kind of superficial things but they are also part of the time right now. It’s a blend. Life and football continuously change, man. It’s all part of it. There are certain things that you hold strong to and there are other things that might be a little bit better that you learn from.”
About those “superficial things” that are “part of the times:” The Chiefs have shown some pistol and read-option formations this season.
“The pistol is a unique formation,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “You’re able to do a pro-style run game as well as some more spread, spread-option type things from the pistol. That’s kind of the nature of it. You can run power and pro-style run games, as well as the advantage of being in the gun.”
Reid clearly thought enough about Smith’s abilities –- or thought so little about the abilities of his other options at quarterback –- that the Chiefs traded a second-round pick in the 2013 draft, along with a 2014 selection, to pry Smith away from San Francisco.
“I like Alex Smith,” Reid said. “I’ve liked him since he was in college. I have some friends, some close friends, that coached him at the college level. We had an opportunity to watch Alex grow in the National Football League having played the 49ers all those games. I watched his progress. I thought he’d be a good addition in this particular offense that we run here. He’s done all of that, plus some.”
Smith has completed 60 percent of his passes this season for 396 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. His 94.7 quarterback rating puts him 12th in the NFL.
But if Smith has done what Reid asked, then Reid hasn’t asked all that much of him. The Chiefs have the 27th-ranked offense in the league. (Kansas City is eighth in rushing.) Beyond Dwayne Bowe -– who has eight catches for 86 yards and one touchdown this season –- Kansas City doesn’t have many top-tier (or even mid-tier, depending on your perspective of Bowe) receivers. That explains, in part, why Reid –- who previously loved to take deep shots down the field to DeSean Jackson and others –- hasn’t ordered many long passes in the first two games.
Only five of the Chiefs' 42 completions this year have gone for 20 yards or more. None have traveled beyond 40 yards. By comparison, the Eagles have connected on 13 passing plays of 20 yards or more and three for 40 yards or more.
The Chiefs' best weapon remains Jamaal Charles, a dangerous running back who’s heavily involved in the team’s ground and air attacks in the same way that Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy were once multi-purpose threats for Reid. Charles is 14th in the NFL with 132 rushing yards. He averages 4.1 yards per carry and 6.5 yards per reception.
For the Eagles to be successful this week, stopping Charles will be an obvious priority. The Eagles are 30th in team defense (19th against the run, 31st against the pass), but they've done a fair job stopping running backs from catching the ball. The Birds have allowed 63 receiving yards to opposing running backs, tied for 10th-fewest in the league.
The Eagles will also look to add to Kansas City’s problems on third down. The Chiefs have converted only nine of their 28 third downs. That’s a 32 percent clip, good for just 23rd in the league.
“Getting yourself in bad third downs, 3rd-and-longs, you’d love to be in 3rd-and-manageable,” Smith said. “It’s an NFL stat. If you’re going to be in 3rd-and-medium, 3rd-and-short, you’re going to convert more. You’re going to extend drives. That comes from first and second-down production. If you put yourself in a bunch of 3rd-and-10 or third-and-longs, you’re going to be bad on third down. It’s just the nature of it. It’s too hard of a situation to overcome. We’ve had too many of those.”