Where Alex Smith and Tom Brady align

Alex Smith's steady, low-risk play at QB has been a perfect fit for the defensive-minded Chiefs. John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports

While Peyton Manning and the unbeaten Denver Broncos set passing records by the week, the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots have combined to go 9-1 by other means. Their passing stats, which mirror each other, are modest through five games. Each has thrown seven touchdown passes, matching Manning's total for Week 1. Each has a Total QBR score in the low 50s, right at the average.

Personnel changes, specifically a dearth of established pass-catchers, have forced Tom Brady and the Patriots to adjust their approach offensively. In Kansas City, meanwhile, the Chiefs have gotten what they wanted from Alex Smith: a steady veteran presence, the ability to make plays on occasion and an aversion to the killer mistake.

The broader point of interest centers on how good a team must be in other areas -- defense, the running game and special teams -- to win consistently in the absence of a more dynamic passing attack. The answers help set expectations for the Chiefs, Patriots and other teams that, for one reason or another, might not be consistently threatening opponents through the air.

The NFL is a passing league, but not everyone has to win that way.