<
>

Alex Smith's passing on point as Chiefs gear up for January

Alex Smith was brilliant on the deep ball Thursday night, something he's not typically known for, in the Chiefs' win. He's eyeing career-best numbers in accuracy over a full season as the Chiefs begin to look like a serious Super Bowl threat. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith completed all five of his passes thrown more than 15 yards downfield Thursday night for 141 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown strike to Tyreek Hill. The five such completions matched Smith’s season high, and were one fewer than he had in his previous five games combined. Furthermore, he was 3-of-3 on passes thrown at least 30 yards downfield; entering the game, he was just 2-of-12 on such passes this season.

Conversely, Oakland's Derek Carr was not as successful throwing downfield, completing no such passes for just the second time in the last two seasons:

Smith's success with the deep ball flies in the face of a season-long trend of playing conservatively and slicing up defenses with the short passing game. Among starting quarterbacks in the NFL with at least 100 passing attempts, only Minnesota's Sam Bradford is averaging less air yards per attempt than Smith.

Smith also ranks third-worst among starting QBs for percentage of attempts 15 or more yards downfield (15.4), ahead of only Cody Kessler (15.1) and Bradford (14.5).

Perhaps most importantly, Smith is currently on pace to set a career high for completion percentage over a full 16-game season, currently at a 67.3 percent clip, good enough for seventh among NFL quarterbacks. Only New England's Tom Brady (68.9) has a higher percentage among AFC signal-callers. Smith posted career bests in completion percentage (70.3), yards per completion (7.97) and QBR (68.0) in his final year with the 49ers in 2012. But he only started 10 games that year, losing his job to Colin Kaepernick halfway through the season as the Niners marched all the way to Super Bowl XLV.

-- Brendan C. Hall