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Alex Smith: Visual Breakdown and Analysis of Chiefs QB in Week 2 vs. Cowboys

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Alex Smith: Visual Breakdown and Analysis of Chiefs QB in Week 2 vs. Cowboys
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Image edited by Brett Gering

When Andy Reid recruited Alex Smith to the new-look Kansas City Chiefs, the move birthed two factions.

One was a beehive teeming with critics. Smith was just another bone tossed to the organization by the San Francisco 49ers. Steve DeBerg, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac—Kansas Citians had seen this movie before, and it hasn't ended well since Joe Montana became eligible for Canton.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me four times, fit me for my dunce cap. 

Smith's 49ers were one muffed punt return away from booking their flights to the Super Bowl. And? He was surrounded by top-tier talent and under the guidance of quarterback whisperer Jim Harbaugh. No. 11's arm strength rivals that of Matt Cassel—expect the same results. 

The latter group, on the other hand, approached the transaction with a more optimistic tone. Yes, Aaron Rodgers totes a stronger arm than Smith. So does Brady Quinn

In reality, Kansas City's passer ranks among the smartest quarterbacks in the league. He won't wow you with bullets downfield, but he flaunts pinpoint accuracy beneath 20 yards. Furthermore, Smith doubles as an underrated athlete and universally revered leader. 

Throughout the Chiefs' 17-16 comeback versus the Dallas Cowboys, five plays showcased the quarterback's array of talents. 

 

Smith Creates His Own Space

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Initially, the Chiefs line up in ace formation with trips to the right. Smith fakes the snap count, forcing Cowboys defenders to reveal their true colors.

The strong-side linebacker (or "Sam") approaches the line while Dallas' strong safety slides over to cover the slot receiver. 

Smith then drops back into a shotgun, knowing that the defense is likely deploying man coverage across the board (with the exception of the free safety). 

When he snaps the ball, the middle linebacker, Sean Lee, acts as a spy who mimics Smith's intentions. In the Tampa 2, the defense is, in large part, predicated around a versatile middle linebacker. By nature, the key to exploiting it rests in dictating the aforementioned player.

Kansas City's quarterback masks his ambitions by selling a hard pump fake to his right, which baits Lee to that side of the field. With the majority of defenders playing man, they can't afford to keep tabs on the passer due to fear of losing their receiver. 

The series of events lead to the middle linebacker out of position and the field opening up before Smith's eyes.

He takes advantage and carries Kansas City's offense down to the 2-yard line.

 

Kansas City Totes the Pistol

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs break the huddle in the pistol. 

Kansas City's big men allow the left defensive end, Anthony Spencer, to unabatedly race into the backfield. Smith reads that the bookend pursues Charles, so he maintains possession and rounds the corner.

The tight end down-blocks the weak-side linebacker, Bruce Carter, which seals the edge while Dwayne Bowe attains inside leverage and bullies his cornerback. 

Initially, right tackle Eric Fisher locks up the middle linebacker before progressing through the defense. (On a side note, this play exemplifies the No. 1 pick's athleticism, as he runs alongside linebackers with no issue.)

The fullback, Anthony Sherman, picks up where Fisher left off, thwarting Lee's pursuit and detouring his angle on the quarterback.

Finally, free safety Barry Church bolts onto the scene and halts Smith's success.

 

Donnie Avery Threatens the Safeties

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Judging by the personnel, this call is designed to stretch the field. Reid is banking on Dallas' defense to hover around the first-down marker and nullify the short to intermediate routes. He guesses correctly. 

On 3rd-and-9, Kansas City aligns in a shotgun with A.J. Jenkins as the split end (or "X" receiver). Avery lines up as the flanker ("Z") while Dexter McCluster plays the slot ("Y"). 

 

Defensive tackle Nick Hayden punches Fisher's outside hand and gains the edge to apply pressure. 

However, Smith keeps his poise while stepping up in the pocket—his eyesight anchored downfield—and shrugs off Hayden's contact. 

Jenkins runs a deep post that ensures the attention of underneath defenders, which basically leaves Avery matched up with strong safety Will Allen. Kansas City's starter fleshes out a flag route that Allen bites on, ultimately cranking out a 31-yard pass from Smith.

 

Anthony Fasano Finds the Void

Peter Aiken/Getty Images

There's nothing awe-inspiring about the following play.

On the same drive as the previous clip, Dallas slides its linebacking corps under, and the strong-side linebacker hints that he's blitzing.

After the snap, both he and the middle linebacker charge ahead. 

Smith and tight end Anthony Fasano find themselves on the same wavelength, and Smith simply drills a short pass to No. 80 within the vacated zone. 

While the subtle adjustment won't crack any highlight reels, it's a nuance that is/was rarely demonstrated in Cassel's game.

 

Season Premiere of the 'D. Bowe Show'

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

This highlight punctuated the drive with an exclamation mark. 

Reid's offense assembles in a shotgun with trips to the right. Fasano serves as the in-line tight end while his recently activated cohort, Sean McGrath, occupies the slot. 

At the snap, Smith sells a wide-receiver screen by squaring his shoulders to Bowe, who is in the middle of running a slant.

No. 11's fake draws the middle and strong-side linebackers to that half of the field. 

The pair of tight ends mirror each other's routes, faking to the corner before dipping back inside. Smith's vision locks onto Fasano, which forces the remaining (weak-side) linebacker to drift into the tight end's vicinity. 

Meanwhile, Bowe's slant crosses the path of his quarterback's line of sight, allowing for a quick connection without Smith revealing his intentions until the last second. By the time Bruce Carter (No. 54) realizes that Kansas City's former Pro Bowler is sprinting underneath, it's too late.

Carter slips into shame, and Lee can't close the distance before No. 82 breaks the plane.

Thanks to a creative play-caller at head coach and a crafty salesman at quarterback, the play unfolded exactly how it was designed, and Kansas City recaptured its cushion on the scoreboard.  

 

For more Chiefs analysis, follow Brett on Twitter:

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