KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alex Smith did something Saturday no other quarterback in NFL playoff history has managed — throw four touchdowns with no interceptions, and still come away with a loss.
There are probably several ways to interpret the meaning of that oddity, but this much we know: Smith certainly did his part to try and lead the Chiefs to victory.
Yet while the stat line (378 yards passing, 57 rushing) certainly will absolve Smith in the Chiefs’ agonizing 45-44 playoff loss to the Colts on Saturday, he wasn’t ready to completely absolve himself afterward.
"You know, (statistics) don’t really matter," he said. "In the end, especially as a quarterback, it comes down to winning and losing, especially when you get into the postseason.
"You’ve just got to find a way to win. For us on offense, we had a chance there at the end of the game and we didn’t get it done. So I certainly think that’s what we’re looking at."
In the end, on that fateful final drive, the Chiefs were inches away from setting up a potential game-winning field goal. Smith’s fourth-down pass was hauled in by Dwayne Bowe at the Colts’ 15-yard line. But Bowe’s right foot came down out of bounds.
Smith, though, doesn’t think one specific play was the difference Saturday.
"They’re all tough, and that’s certainly one," he said. "But you can point out for me a handful of plays that, yeah, you do this differently, you do that different, and it would’ve changed the game. That’s the way it is.
"You never know which play can be the difference. That’s why you’re doing everything possible each and every play to do it right, to make the play, because you don’t know which one is going to be the difference maker. There were several of those (Saturday) night, certainly."
Yet there is no question that Smith made his share of great plays Saturday. He threw with conviction and precision, even when his best weapons began to drop out of the offense one by one because of injury. First it was Jamaal Charles. Then Donnie Avery. Then Knile Davis.
But Smith persevered. He scrambled, ran the read-option, and selflessly gave up his body to crushing hits downfield.
This is why Chiefs coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey were so excited to land him in a trade with San Francisco last March.
"We knew he would be a leader," Reid said. "We knew he was our guy."
And as much as Smith was good for the Chiefs in helping them turn around a franchise, the Chiefs also were good for Smith. After losing his job with the 49ers, Smith’s career has been resurrected in Kansas City.
And as painful as Saturday’s loss was, Smith sees that game and the 2013 season as steppingstones in the building process.
"I certainly think you use this as drive," Smith said. "I think it’s good to be playing in these types of games. I think these types of games are contagious. You go back to playing in just regular-season games, you want that itch, you have that urge to try to get to these types of games, these playoff games.
"On this stage, the feeling is just so much different. With that, I think you use it. Certainly, I think the foundation has been laid for us as a team, the way we do things. It was our first year together. I certainly think that foundation has been laid for next year."
Reid said Sunday that while the Chiefs are a good team, they are not yet great. Smith believes the Chiefs aren’t that far off from greatness.
"I certainly think we have the pieces here," he said. "No doubt in my mind that we have what it takes. I think the guys will tell you even (Saturday) night, more so than ever, we feel like that we’re capable of not only just getting to the playoffs, but going deep into them and making runs.
"We have that kind of talent here. We have the group together to do that."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.