Just as the Kansas City Chiefs‘ defense started to break down late in the 2013 season, the offense finally began to show up. An offense that had been largely disregarded by the majority of analysts as nothing more than mediocre was suddenly a serious concern for opposing defenses.
Kansas City averaged 31 points per game over the season’s last half, while scoring at least 38 on three separate occasions. The fact that this offensive revitalization was coinciding with their complete defensive meltdown was almost comical. Sill, the progression on offense as the year progressed was encouraging for Chiefs fans and a punch in the gut to skeptics who cited the unit as the team’s obvious weakness.
Sure, Jamaal Charles was awesome all season, but QB Alex Smith played his best football down the stretch. Over Kansas City’s final eight games, Smith completed 62.6 percent of his passes while throwing for 14 TDs and three INT’s.
The yardage wasn’t there — he had only 1,518 — but Smith was easily one of the second half’s most efficient, consistent signal callers. It wasn’t necessarily always pretty, but Smith got the job done.
The Chiefs ended the season tied for sixth among all NFL teams averaging 26.9 points per contest. However, this number can be deceiving when gauging Kansas City’s offensive potency when you consider they finished just 21st in total yards per game. How does this happen?
Kansas City’s special teams — first in KR and PR yardage and defense, first in defensive touchdowns, and second in takeaways — were enormous factors in Kansas City’s offensive success. Smith was routinely set up with great field position and was more or less tasked with simply not screwing things up.
This isn’t to say that Smith and the Chiefs’ offense don’t deserve an enormous amount of credit, because they do. Smith led Kansas City to the fifth highest red zone TD percentage in the league at 59.68 despite a shaky situation at right tackle throughout the year.
He never amazed, but he certainly didn’t disappoint either. Smith, who turns 30 before next season, clearly isn’t, and will never be, a gunslinger, but does he need to be in order for Kansas City to have an elite offense? Actually, I tend to think the answer is yes.
Charles carried the Chiefs’ offense as much as any other player in the NFL did their’s; he accounted for just over 38 percent of Kansas City’s total offense in 2013. As much as we’d enjoy seeing a repeat of that in 2014, it’s not likely. The Chiefs’ 24th-ranked passing attack will need to improve to take some of the load off Charles’ back.
Additionally, with the defense a major question mark heading into next season, Smith may not have the luxury of playing ahead as frequently as he did in 2013. The following phrase has become so cliche when describing Smith that I hate to use it, but it’s now or never for Smith shaking the “game manager” label he’s tagged with. The opportunity has never been better.
Kansas City is surely set to go after one, if not two, quality wide receivers through the Draft or free agency this offseason. This, along with the return of tight end Travis Kelce, should help to alleviate some of the Dwayne Bowe‘s coverage and provide the $56 million wideout a chance to return to his 2010 form. In turn, this should allow Smith to improve in 2014 as well.
Ultimately, however, the Chiefs just aren’t a top 10 offense, not with Smith under center anyway. Following upgrades at wideout and right tackle, look for the Kansas City to fall somewhere within the 11-15 range next season. They’re solid, but expecting their late-season surge to be a sign of things to come would be foolish.