KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The past two weeks, when the Kansas City Chiefs have struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone, Andy Reid has insisted that he needs to put his players in better position to succeed.
What happens when he puts the Chiefs in a bad position, though? Well, the Chiefs are paying quarterback Alex Smith a bunch of cash to get them out of it.
Smith said Wednesday that while his coach often takes responsibility for the shortcomings of the offense, the burden lies on the players to execute on the field. That means executing plays, making smart decisions with the ball and — at least for Smith — checking out of bad calls.
"He calls a play and it’s our job to go make it work regardless," Smith said. "And it’s my job that not every call is going to be perfect — he’s not clairvoyant — and when he does get the right call, it’s my job to make the play."
Through two weeks and two losses, that hasn’t happened enough.
Smith has thrown one touchdown pass against three interceptions, and his quarterback rating of 63.6 is last among 35 quarterbacks in the league. In fact, the guy ranked 34th just happens to be Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel, the very same guy who was released by the Chiefs when they acquired Smith in a trade from San Francisco prior to last season.
The sample size is small, of course. And the fact remains that Smith is coming off the finest year of his career, one that helped land him a four-year, $68 million contract extension.
But through two games, Smith is still trying to live up to his new deal.
He threw a pair of interceptions while the Chiefs were nearing the goal line in a season-opening loss to Tennessee, and the only touchdown that Kansas City scored came when the game was already out of reach. Then last week in Denver, the Chiefs had first-and-goal in the final minutes but were unable to punch into the end zone for a tying touchdown in a 24-17 defeat.
"It’s not where you hoped to be two weeks ago," Smith acknowledged. "It’s a long season though. … The mentality is let’s win this week, put some things together and you never know."
Reid and Smith have both come under fire for the way the Chiefs executed in Denver.
They had first-and-goal in the third quarter and wound up going backward. Smith misfired on five straight passes, one of which was bailed out by a Denver penalty. But after a sack and a hold on the Chiefs, Cairo Santos was forced to attempt a 37-yard field goal that he missed.
Then the debacle in the fourth quarter, one that cost the Chiefs a chance at overtime.
On first down at the 9-yard line, Knile Davis was stuffed for a 2-yard gain. On second down, Smith completed a 3-yard pass to Donnie Avery. After a penalty gave the Chiefs a second chance on third down, Davis was stuffed for no gain going up the middle from the Denver 2.
It wasn’t until fourth down that Smith threw to the end zone. The pass never got there, harmlessly batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Reid quickly took ownership of the play-calling on both failed series, but Smith came to his coach’s defense on Wednesday. The veteran quarterback insisted that he has the latitude to check out of plays that he thinks may not work; otherwise, it’s on him to execute them.
"He does a good job of that. I think you see that on the field," Reid said. "Coaches aren’t on the field, so you need someone who has a grasp of everything. That’s one of his real strengths. He gets people lined up if they have a little bit of a slip and he fixes issues."
Will he be able to fix the Chiefs’ red-zone blues?
The next opportunity comes Sunday in Miami.
"Coach does put it upon himself, takes a lot of accountability, and I think as players we see that and really respect that," Smith said. "But at the same time, we have to make plays."
Notes: RB Jamaal Charles (high ankle sprain) and S Eric Berry (ankle sprain) were not on the practice field Wednesday. … WR/RB De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring) expects to make his debut. The rookie has missed the first two games.