With defensive injuries looming, Chiefs will turn to Alex Smith to rescue them
KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Five things we learned from the Chiefs’ 41-38 loss to San Diego on Sunday. MAYBE SMITH CAN
The prevailing wisdom all season has been that the Chiefs win with defense and quarterback Alex Smith simply gets out of the way.
Well, all that thinking might have to be altered now as the Chiefs ponder their football world without linebacker Tamba Hali, perhaps for the season, and linebacker Justin Houston, perhaps for the short term.
Let's face it: The Chiefs' defense suddenly looks a bit toothless without Hali, who was seen on crutches after the game because of what seemed a serious ankle injury, and Houston, who might have a hyper-extended elbow.
The Chargers certainly exposed the Chiefs' defense, piling up 491 yards, and you can bet Peyton Manning will be licking his chops for next Sunday's rematch between Denver and KC.
All of this, of course, means that Smith will have to rise out of his comfort zone, take more chances and put up more points.
And Smith did just that against the Chargers, leading the offense to five touchdowns and 395 yards.
Smith indeed appeared quite comfortable, connecting on 26 of 38 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns.
But Smith said the potential losses of Hali and Houston shouldn't be his concern.
"With them being out, you recognize it," Smith said. "But you kind of farm your own ground. You stay focused on what you have to do and not worry about things out of your control Our mindset is to score on every drive (anyway). That won't change."
Smith did look downfield more often Sunday, searching for big plays. He targeted deep threat Donnie Avery five times and Avery caught four for 91 yards.
"I thought Donnie played great today," Smith said. "He played fast. We need that."
Yes, they'll need all the offense they can muster over the final month.
REID'S POSTGAME MESSAGE
So, what exactly did Reid tell his troops in the locker room after the deflating loss?
"He just told us it's a long season," wide out Dexter McCluster said. "He's said there's a lot of football to be played, look at the positives and that we have nine wins under our belt and we have to stay positive, and we have a lot of grind time left."
Linebacker Frank Zombo knows a little about having to fill in for stars -- in 2010, Zombo had to fill in for injured Packers stud Clay Matthews. Zombo contributed quite a bit that season, and wound up getting a Super Bowl ring.
Now, Zombo and fellow former Packer Dezman Moses might be asked to fill big shoes again with Hali and Houston likely out for a while.
On Sunday, though, neither Zombo nor Moses distinguished themselves. Zombo had two tackles and Moses had one. Zombo also had a quarterback hit, but that was it for the pair.
"I haven't gotten very many snaps this season, so I haven't had much of a role on defense until today," Moses said. "I didn't want it to happen at the expense of either one of them, who are two great players. I need to do a better job of getting ready because you're always one snap away from being in the game.
"I'll be better prepared next week."
You can blame the absence of Hali and Houston and the lack of pass rush for much of the defense's collapse. But the truth is that the Chiefs' secondary was pretty much awful all afternoon.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 392 yards and posted a 127.3 passer rating. Rivers continuously took advantage of crossing routes and pick plays that allowed wide outs Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal to have free reign over the middle.
Allen and Royal caught 13 passes combined for 211 yards.
The Chiefs' secondary simply couldn't figure out a way to contain them.
"They came out with a good game plan," cornerback Brandon Flowers said. "A lot of crossing routes ... we just have to go back to the drawing board and handle that."
The Chargers' winning score was another example of poor communication. Cornerback Sean Smith seemed to have underneath coverage of Chargers wide out Seyi Ajirotutu, and Smith almost seemed to be releasing him to the deep safety. But the problem was, deep safety Quintin Demps wasn't nearly deep enough and was late to the play.
After the touchdown, Smith seemed to look toward Demps and throw his arms up in the air in frustration.
CHARLES' BIG DAY
Lost in the misery of the defeat was another outstanding day by running back Jamaal Charles. Charles rushed for 115 yards and an 8.2 average. He also had 42 yards receiving, and for the second straight week showed he still has plenty of burst with a season-long 46-yard run.
"The offense did a great job out here today," Charles said. "We tried to score on every drive because with Philip Rivers out there putting putting up points, we felt we had to, too. ... We have to continue to strive on this."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter (@jflanagankc) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.