KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Alex Smith was the darling of Kansas City just a few weeks ago, when the quarterback who seems to never make any major mistakes had the Chiefs rolling to the top of the AFC West.
Now, there's a sizeable group of fans who want him replaced.
Smith has struggled in his two games back from a head injury sustained in Indianapolis, including a lousy performance last Sunday in a 19-17 loss to Tampa Bay. The defeat snapped the Chiefs' five-game winning streak and left them playing catch-up in the division race.
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''I think Alex is OK. He's going to be fine. We've just got to keep going here,'' Chief coach Andy Reid said. ''He does a great job with leadership and all of those things.
''He'll be fine. We've had a couple weeks here where we've been in a little bit of a slump. We need to pull out of it and get better.''
The Chiefs don't put too much stock in numbers, unless you're talking about turnovers, penalties and points on the scoreboard. But it is hard to dispute that Smith's numbers are down across the board.
He has just nine touchdown passes in nine games, along with four interceptions. He's averaging 6.9 yards per attempt, down nearly a yard from last season.
His yards-per-completion, quarterback rating and several other benchmarks are also down, even though he may have more talent around him.
The Chiefs shored up the offensive line in the offseason, which is why his sack total is also down, and gave him a speedy playmaker in wide receiver Tyreek Hill through the draft.
''I think stats can definitely be useful. They can tell you glaring themes here and there,'' Smith said, ''but sometime it's easy to get caught up too much and read into them, especially if there isn't a glaring theme.
''Each season is different and is its own journey, and every year's schedule is different, so it's hard to compare it to years past. There's different challenges.''
The challenges are only going to get stiffer for the Chiefs, too.
They head to Denver on Sunday night for a pivotal showdown with the Broncos, who like them are battling the Raiders for the division lead.
Then it's off to Atlanta for a game against the high-flying Falcons, and the Chiefs will likely need to score a lot of points to win.
Then, a Thursday night game against the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.
But first up are the Broncos, who may have the best defense the Chiefs have faced all season – not a good thing for a Chiefs offense that is struggling to put up points.
''They're really good,'' Smith said. ''That's obvious looking at them statistically the last few years. Personnel-wise, they're good across the board.
''Up front, linebacker level and secondary, these guys are really, really good. They're well coached and they're fast. You look at the numbers and they're there.''
OK, so maybe Smith does put some stock in statistics.
It's not that everything is dire in Kansas City, of course. The Chiefs (7-3) are still squarely in the playoff picture, and they could still snatch away a division title.
But everyone also recognizes that Smith needs to begin performing better for the offense to hit its stride again.
He threw for just 261 yards last week against Tampa Bay, a good chunk of that when he was trying to rally the Chiefs down the stretch.
And while he scored his first touchdown on the ground since the opener, he also threw an interception in the end zone that foiled a potential comeback.
Predictably, many fans began to argue backup Nick Foles should be given a chance.
Reid has been steadfastly in Smith's corner, though, ever since the moment the Chiefs sent two second-round picks to San Francisco to acquire him.
It was Reid who took the blame for the interception – he called a bad play, he said – and the coach insisted this week that Smith's job is not in jeopardy.
''I'm just worried that we execute better and that's all the way around,'' Reid said.
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