AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

videoSAN DIEGO -- Dwayne Bowe had an explanation for why the Kansas City Chiefs, after a long dry spell, finally made a two-minute drill work with coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith.

“Alex won two championships here and he knows the field,’’ Bowe said jokingly.

Smith, a San Diego native, did win a pair of high school championships at Qualcomm Stadium, but otherwise the place has been cursed as far as the Chiefs are concerned. They hadn’t beaten the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm since 2007, when they were coached by Herm Edwards and quarterbacked by Damon Huard.

This time, in Smith’s old haunt, the Chiefs went 62 yards in 1:36 and beat the Chargers 23-20 on Cairo Santos' 48-yard field goal with 21 seconds remaining. The successful drive might have saved the Chiefs’ season. They have overcome a rotten start to get to 3-3 with home games against the St. Louis Rams and New York Jets immediately ahead.

By taking care of business against a pair of sub-.500 opponents, the Chiefs can get to 5-3 at the season’s midway point. After a start to their season that included a home loss to the dismal Tennessee Titans, a potentially overwhelming wave of injuries and four road games, the Chiefs would be elated with a 5-3 record.

But they couldn’t get there without beating the Chargers and to do that, they would need a late scoring drive after the Chargers tied the game at 20-20 with 1:57 remaining.

The Chiefs had no reason to be confident. They failed in similar late-game situations this season in Denver and San Francisco. Then, they had been unable to get the ball to some of their better downfield receivers, most notably Bowe and tight end Travis Kelce.

The Chiefs had a little bit of good fortune this time in that they had their bye and two weeks to prepare for the Chargers. They made their two-minute drill an emphasis. Reid and Smith both gave credit to offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, who spent extra hours designing some plays that might, for a change, work.

“Doug did a great job of sitting down and looking at all our two-minute stuff even from last year and [figured out] what are our strengths and weaknesses and when we’re doing well, what are we doing and putting those guys in those situations,’’ Smith said.

One thing Pederson wanted Smith to do was get the ball to their better receivers. That’s Bowe and Kelce. Bowe dropped a big third-down earlier in the game, but got open on the big play of the drive, a 19-yard pass from Smith. The Chiefs then fed the ball twice to Kelce with short passes and let him do what he does best, run with the ball in his hands.

Those were the only passes Smith would complete on the drive, which other than the result wasn’t a thing of beauty. He was just 3-of-7 for 43 yards.

That doesn’t mean the Chiefs will throw it back. They’ll hold it tight and hope it spurs them on to bigger and better things this season.

“I think this team is in a good place mentally,’’ Smith said. “I think we understood that coming into this game we were a couple of plays away from being 4-1 and we understood we didn’t make those plays, though.

“It was a tough road game. Four of the first six were on the road. So I feel like we’re in a good place to keep going.’’
SAN DIEGO -- Qualcomm Stadium serves as familiar surroundings for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith
He grew up watching and attending San Diego Chargers games. And with the help of high school teammate Reggie Bush, the San Diego native led Helix High School to two San Diego California Interscholastic Federation section championships played at Qualcomm Stadium.

Smith also led Utah to a win over San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium in his final year in college.

But as a pro, Smith is 0-2 at Qualcomm, losing in 2006 and 2010 to the Chargers as the quarterback and No. 1 overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 draft.

Smith will play in Qualcomm Stadium as a member of the Chiefs for the first time Sunday. He did not play last year's final regular-season game because Andy Reid chose to rest his starters in preparation for the playoffs, a game in which San Diego escaped with a 27-24 victory to advance to the postseason.

Smith, 30, said he’s looking forward to playing at Qualcomm again.

“Of course, growing up there in your hometown and going back,” Smith said. “But I haven’t thought a lot about that. To be honest, I kind of got my hands full with this film, and obviously getting ready to play a pretty good team.”

Last year, the Chiefs made a trade with the 49ers to obtain Smith and serve as the team’s franchise quarterback. And prior to this season, he signed a four-year, $68 million contract extension in the hopes of becoming the long-term solution at quarterback.

So far, he’s lived up to the lofty expectations, leading the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2013 and making the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 10-year NFL career.

After a slow start this season, in which he struggled in losses against Tennessee and Denver, Smith has led Kansas City to two wins in its past three games.

“He’s the perfect guy for that scheme,” former Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “He’s a guy who’s not going to turn the ball over. He’s going to make all of the smart throws. He gets the ball out of his hands quick. He’s not going to take sacks.

“He’s the type of quarterback a lot of offensive coordinators would love to have in their system.”

Growing up in San Diego, Smith said that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was someone he studied.

“It’s always fun to go against Philip,” Smith said. “He’s such a competitor, having gotten to know him. He’s a good guy. I’ve always watched him. In the NFL you watch a lot of offense and opponents’ film. And certainly, he’s a guy who I appreciate how he goes about his game, and I think [he's] one of the best there is from inside the pocket.”

Facing Smith breaks a streak of four straight weeks in which San Diego’s defense played against first or second-year quarterbacks. The Chargers won all four of those games, but defensive coordinator John Pagano will face a different challenge in game-planning for an experienced and mobile quarterback in Smith.

“It’s about us going out and executing,” Pagano said. “It's about us doing what we have to do as a defensive unit. They are explosive, and Alex is playing at a high level. He’s confident in his throws.

“You hear all the things about him managing the game, and then you put the tape on, and you see how his completion percentage is up there, not a lot of interceptions, and he’s putting it where they need to catch it. From an experience standpoint, I think this is one of the most explosive offenses. The weapons they have across the board it is a tremendous challenge.”

With the San Diego Chargers (5-1) riding high on a five-game winning streak, the Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) will attempt to knock down their AFC West division rival a peg or two when they travel to Qualcomm Stadium for a Sunday afternoon contest.

Kansas City has struggled of late against the Chargers, losing four straight and 11 of their past 14 meetings.

But the Chiefs should benefit from coming off a bye week. Andy Reid-led teams are 13-2 in games after the bye week in his career as an NFL head coach.

However, Kansas City lost after the bye week last season, 27-17 at Denver.

“It’s constant work because we lost the last one,” Reid said, when asked about his team’s success after the bye week. “So we’re always evaluating what we can do to be better in that area. Last year we weren’t very good, so we’ve got to get better.”

Sunday’s matchup also highlights the Brandon Flowers-Kansas City grudge match. Released by the Chiefs last June in a cost-cutting move, Flowers didn’t like it. And now he can do something about it twice this season, facing his former team for the first time.

Flowers suffered a groin injury against Oakland, so his availability for Sunday’s game is in question.

“If I’m not ready, I won’t be out there,” Flowers said. “If I’m out there, I’m ready.”

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams preview the game:

Williams: Adam, after starting out the season 0-2, the Chiefs won two of their next three games heading into the bye week. What have been the reasons for the improved play?

Teicher: They’re a far better team than the way they played in the season opener in Tennessee. They looked lost, like they didn’t know which players to play or how to utilize them. No sense of urgency at all. They started to play better the next week at Denver, where their late rally fell a couple of yards short and they lost by a touchdown. The way the Chiefs have played since the opener is much closer to the real Chiefs than the way they played against Tennessee. They’ve figured out their strengths and weaknesses and try to play to those, particularly on offense.

Eric, the Chargers have the AFC’s best record but three of their wins came against some of the NFL’s weakest teams. Do you feel the Chargers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, or is the fast start more a function of their schedule?

Williams: That’s a fair question. The Chargers have played some of the bottom-feeders of the NFL. However, the win over Seattle was a sign of how good this team can be if everything is working well for it. The Chargers looked dominant in defeating the defending Super Bowl champs. They easily handled teams they were supposed to beat in Jacksonville and the New York Jets. And even though the Chargers did not play their best at Oakland, they did what good teams do in adverse situations -- find a way to win. If the Chargers can keep Philip Rivers upright and healthy, they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Adam, Travis Kelce looks like an emerging talent at tight end. He leads Kansas City in receptions (20), receiving yards (274) and receiving touchdowns (3). What makes him so productive?

Teicher: He’s 260 pounds but is fast -- wide receiver fast. In the preseason, he caught a pass over the middle and then outran a bunch of defensive backs to the end zone for a long touchdown. He runs good routes and catches the ball well, so put everything together and he can be tough to cover. The Chiefs had big plans for him last season, when he was a rookie. But he came down with a knee ailment during the preseason and never played an offensive snap all season. The Chiefs’ passing game would be lost if something similar happened now.

Eric, San Diego’s running game has picked up since Branden Oliver became the featured back. Give me a scouting report on Oliver and tell me why he’s been able to succeed where Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown didn’t.

Williams: Generously listed at 5-foot-8, Oliver is very elusive, which means San Diego’s offensive line does have to block plays perfectly for the undrafted rookie free agent to find a crease in the defense and spring loose. Oliver is hard for defenders to see behind San Diego’s offensive line, which works in his favor. And at 208 pounds, Oliver can run over defenders at the second level, and is hard to bring down because he’s so low to the ground. He’s a hard worker who quickly learned the offense, and adds a different dimension with his jitterbug running style. It will be interesting to see how the Chargers divide the carries when Brown and Mathews are both healthy again.

Adam, what’s your evaluation of how quarterback Alex Smith, a San Diego native, has played after receiving his new contract extension before the season started?

Teicher: Like many of his teammates, Smith has played better since the Tennessee game. He uncharacteristically tried to force a lot of passes that day and wound up throwing three interceptions. He’s thrown just one pick since and that was late in the game against San Francisco when the Chiefs were backed up deep and trying to rally. Where he’s failed this year is that he’s 0-of-2 in late fourth-quarter drives. The Chiefs failed to score a touchdown against the 49ers and the Broncos when each time when it could have won the game. Smith has not led a late-game rally for the Chiefs. He’s 0-for-4 including last season and that’s what needs to change.

Eric, Flowers is a question mark to play on Sunday because of a groin injury, but he’ll be back at some point. How has he fit in with the Chargers and how much credit does he deserve for the Chargers having one of the top pass defenses in the league?

Williams: Flowers has fit in well and exceeded expectations through the first six weeks of this season. He leads the team in interceptions, and according to defensive co-captain Eric Weddle has brought a level of professionalism to the defensive backfield room with his strong work ethic and knowledge of the game. Weddle says those characteristics are rubbing off on the rest of a young cornerback group, which includes first-round selection Jason Verrett. One last thing is Flowers has added a level of toughness, both mentally and physically. He’s a sure tackler in the run game, and as mentally prepared as they come. Flowers also has been willing to play different roles on the field, including special teams and slot defender in passing situations.

video
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Since Andy Reid arrived as the head coach and Alex Smith as quarterback last year, the Kansas City Chiefs are 0-4 when they needed a late touchdown to win a game. They are 0-2 in those situations this season, failing to score late in last month’s game in Denver and then again in their most recent game at San Francisco.

Smith
 The solution on the surface might seem obvious. The Chiefs need to find a new coach and a new quarterback.

While that’s a bit drastic, both Reid and Smith share some blame in the matter. Reid, as the play-caller, can do better than what he dialed up in the loss to the Broncos. The Chiefs had gotten the ball for the last time at their 34 with 3:20 remaining, down 24-17. They quickly moved to the Denver 9, where they had a first and goal with 1:45 left.

So far, so good. The situation at this point becomes tricky for Reid and the Chiefs because there is danger in getting the touchdown too quickly and leaving ample time for Peyton Manning and the Broncos to counter.

But the Chiefs were still far too conservative, as if not scoring the touchdown at all was an acceptable outcome. Their next three plays consisted of a short pass to Donnie Avery and two Knile Davis runs. The only time the Chiefs took a shot in the end zone was on fourth down and then Smith’s rushed throw for Dwayne Bowe was deflected at the line and never had a chance.

“I’ve got to make sure I’m dialing up better plays there,’’ Reid said. “The bottom line is we’ve got to finish when we’re put in those positions. We can obviously do better.’’

The Chiefs, down 22-17 with 2:12 to go, again needed a touchdown late in the game to beat the 49ers two weeks ago. From the Kansas City 20, the Chiefs ran two plays, an incomplete pass intended for A.J. Jenkins and an interception where Smith tried to squeeze a difficult and delicate throw to Anthony Fasano in between two defenders.

The interception smacked of desperation, the kind of throw Smith might have needed to try on fourth down, but not second down.
Smith this week acknowledged as much.

“So much of the two-minute drill is about getting some completions, moving the chains early,’’ he said. “You can’t press. That’s the whole thing. Time is winding down, but sometimes the gut instinct is to press and that’s when mistakes happen. We probably did that a little bit, I probably did that a little bit instead of getting us going.

“We need to do a better job certainly.’’

He’s right about that, too. The Chiefs’ two victories this season have been comfortable by NFL standards, by 19 and 27 points. They won’t always have that luxury, and many times, they won’t even have a lead of any margin late in the game.

They’ll need some successful two-minute drills in order to be the team they want to be and, starting with Reid and Smith, the Chiefs have much to improve there.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Safety Eric Berry, who hasn’t played since suffering a high ankle sprain in last month’s game against the Denver Broncos, was scheduled to practice again Wednesday for the Kansas City Chiefs. Berry practiced with the Chiefs on Monday for the first time since the injury.

Berry
Coach Andy Reid did not speculate on the three-time Pro Bowl safety's availability for Sunday’s game against the Chargers in San Diego.

“He went through Monday’s practice," Reid said Wednesday. “He felt good. He’s going to go through today’s [practice]. We’ll see how he does. He came back and felt good. I’m pretty good with him for today, and we’ll see how it goes."

The Chiefs have ruled out starting wide receiver Donnie Avery for Sunday’s game. He recently had surgery to repair a sports hernia.

Nickelback Chris Owens (knee) and reserve running back Cyrus Gray (hand) are the other players who were scheduled to miss practice.

Chiefs need to beat Chargers

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
10:00
AM ET


ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher talks about Kansas City’s chances of breaking a six-game losing streak at San Diego.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the Kansas City Chiefs five games into their season and on their bye week, it’s a good time to check in on each of the eight rookies on their active roster.

Ford
LB Dee Ford, first round: Ford has played little this season and mostly on passing downs. His signature play from the season happened last week, when he retreated from Frank Gore like the ball-carrying San Francisco 49ers runner was on fire. We’re going to give Ford the benefit of the doubt on that one, that he didn’t know that Gore had the ball and was headed for what he believed to be other responsibilities. But even on running plays when he wasn’t fooled, Ford hasn’t played well. He also has looked lost in pass coverage. These things are to be expected from a player making the transition from a college defensive end. Ford does have pass-rush skills and could be of use to the Chiefs in getting after the quarterback as the season wears on. It will probably be at least until 2015 that the Chiefs can count on him to be an every-down player.

CB Phillip Gaines, third round: Gaines has played little on defense but has developed into a good special-teams player. Help in the kicking game is probably all the Chiefs will get from Gaines this season. He looked lost at cornerback during training camp and the preseason. Gaines suffered a concussion toward the end of the game in San Francisco.

RB/WR/PR De'Anthony Thomas, fourth round: Thomas missed the season’s first four games because of a strained hamstring, but the Chiefs got a glimpse in his first game in San Francisco of how someone with his world-class speed can help. Thomas started the Chiefs’ final touchdown drive with a 28-yard punt return and finished it by taking a screen pass 17 yards to the end zone on a play the 49ers actually defended well. Look for Thomas to play more as the season goes on.

QB Aaron Murray, fifth round: Murray has been inactive for each of the five games and he probably won’t get into a game this season unless there’s an injury to Alex Smith or Chase Daniel. Murray looked like a talented rookie in the preseason. He would follow a nice throw with an inexperienced mistake. Murray doesn’t have a strong arm, but has enough ability that the Chiefs should get a long look at him during the next offseason, training camp and preseason.

OG Zach Fulton, sixth round: Fulton won the starting job at right guard in training camp and has played more snaps than any other Chiefs rookie. His inexperience has showed during the regular season, but Fulton is advanced for a low-round draft pick in that he understands complicated blocking schemes. He’s also a relentless player who should continue to get better.

OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, sixth round: Like Murray, he has been inactive for all five games. Duvernay-Tardif played in college in Canada and the Chiefs knew he would be a developmental project. But he’s a good athlete who showed well in the preseason, so the chances that he eventually develops into a reliable backup or even a starter are good.

WR Albert Wilson, undrafted: Wilson was in uniform for the season-opening game against Tennessee but he has been inactive for every game since then. He looks destined to spend the rest of his rookie season as a developmental prospect. If he wasn’t available last week, when the Chiefs were down injured starter Donnie Avery, then when?

PK Cairo Santos, undrafted: Santos is starting to come around after his notoriously slow start. He made his last three field-goal attempts after starting the season 2-of-4. Santos has a strong enough leg to make it as an NFL kicker. He showed that repeatedly in training camp.

Chiefs close to breakthrough

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
10:00
AM ET


ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher says he agrees with coach Andy Reid, that the Chiefs are a close to a break though after the bye.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you're one of the 10 or so fans of the Kansas City Chiefs who missed the highlight of rookie linebacker Dee Ford retreating from ball-carrying San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore, do yourself a favor and take a look.

Ford, understandably, is more than a little embarrassed and responded on Twitter.

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's explanation: Ford just lost track of the ball.

"He didn't read the play right," Sutton said. "It was kind of a fake run-looking play to him. Then he went to his pass [coverage] responsibility. Obviously, it was a bad read on his part. He needed to come up and be part of the force there."

That's an understandable explanation. Still, the play makes it look as if Ford, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick, is afraid of contact. The Chiefs say that's not true and that, too, is believable. It's difficult to think Ford could survive a college career in the SEC at Auburn and become a first-round NFL draft pick if he lived in fear of opposing blockers and ball carriers.

But for now, at least, that's the image people will have of Ford. He won't get much of a chance to change that image any time soon, either. The Chiefs are on their bye and won't play again until Oct. 19, when they meet the Chargers in San Diego.

Even then, Ford doesn't figure to play a lot. He hasn't been on the field much during the Chiefs' first five games and it has been mostly on passing downs.

"His strength is rushing the quarterback and he's done a good job for us through the first five games as a pass-rusher," linebackers coach Gary Gibbs said. "He's still developing his skill set as far as being a first- and second-down run-stopper and playing play-action passes and that kind of stuff. It's a process.

"Anytime you take someone that's been a defensive end his entire career and try to stand him up to play a different position, there's a learning process he has to go through. He works hard and he wants to be a good player. As a pass-rusher, he's been a good player for us."

Pro Football Focus has given Ford through five games negative grades for his run defense and pass coverage and a positive grade for his pass rushing.

"I think he'll be fine," Sutton said. "We need him to keep going right now. We've got a lot of football left. We don't want to wait for next year for him to develop."

The Film Don't Lie: Chiefs

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
11:00
AM ET
A weekly look at what the Kansas City Chiefs must fix:

The Chiefs were disappointed they had only 50 offensive plays in Sunday's 22-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but there's a way they can almost guarantee they'll have more snaps in their next game, on Oct. 19 against the San Diego Chargers.

The Chiefs need to run the ball more frequently. They tried only 19 rushing plays, a number far too low given the facts the Chiefs led for much of the game and they were gaining yardage at a nice clip when they gave the ball to Jamaal Charles. He had 80 yards on his 15 carries, or 5.3 yards per carry.

The running game was working in San Francisco, so this was a self-inflicted wound. The running game will work more often than not when the Chiefs are committed to making it work with Charles and Knile Davis.

They could have extended more drives by going to Charles or Davis on third-and-short or medium-yardage situations. But against the 49ers, the Chiefs had seven third-down plays where they needed four or fewer yards to convert.

The Chiefs passed every time. The Chiefs threw an incomplete pass on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter when the situation begged for them to hand the ball to Charles or Davis.

Coach Andy Reid said he now regrets not going to Charles on that play. It's too late to help them in San Francisco -- but it won't be the next time.
For the second time this season, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he was guilty of not getting the ball enough to running back Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs failed to get the ball to Charles on any of their final 10 plays of Sunday's 22-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

Charles
At his Monday news conference, Reid said he particularly regretted the failure to utilize Charles on a possession late in the third quarter, when the Chiefs led 17-16. The Chiefs ran five plays on that drive, four passes and a scramble by quarterback Alex Smith, before punting.

On their first possession of the fourth quarter, the Chiefs had a third down and one. Instead of giving the ball to Charles, they threw an incomplete pass to Dwayne Bowe and then punted.

"If we had that to do over again, and this is hindsight, but I'd probably come back and hand it to him and give him an opportunity to make that play," Reid said.

The Chiefs got the ball back just once more and by then, they were in desperation mode. A little more than two minutes remained but they were out of timeouts and behind by five points.

Charles had only seven carries in the season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans. The next day, Reid said it was "negligence on my part" that Charles didn't get the ball more.
video

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It’s beyond argument that Jamaal Charles is the Kansas City Chiefs’ best player. It’s certainly reasonable to suggest that when it comes to their second-best skill player another running back, Knile Davis, is a strong consideration.

So of course when the Chiefs needed a few yards at some important junctures in Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, they went elsewhere with the ball. You’re reading that correctly. The Chiefs had seven third-down plays in which they needed four yards or less to convert.

And they failed to get the ball to either Charles or Davis one time.

Those were only some of the strange coaching decisions made by Andy Reid in the Chiefs' 22-17 defeat. The Chiefs declined a chance to kick a long field goal late in the third quarter that would have put them ahead by four points, an important margin given the rate at which the 49ers themselves were kicking field goals.

Reid and his staff also failed at simple arithmetic in the fourth quarter, with the 49ers ahead by two points and in formation to try a 53-yard field goal. The Chiefs sent 12 players on the field for the kick and the resulting first down allowed San Francisco to chew two additional minutes off the clock with the 49ers eventually making a much shorter field goal.

"I’ll take the responsibility for that," Reid said of the 12th player. "I’ve got to make sure I count the guys and make sure that down the stretch everybody knows what they’re doing there and they do it."

Football games move at a rapid rate and sometimes, in the heat of things, mistakes are made. That can explain 12 players on the field to defend a field goal, though not at such a crucial point in the game.

But how do the Chiefs not get the ball to Charles, or even Davis, on third-and-short? The Chiefs passed all seven times in those situations.

"They’re normally a big-man team in short yardage," Reid said. "We thought we had some decent things for that. It didn’t work as well as we needed it to."

The Chiefs could have countered the 49ers’ muscle with some big players of their own. They like their three-tight end formations that include Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris. They used 345-pound defensive lineman Dontari Poe as a fullback in last Monday night's game against New England.

Instead of muscling up and going with a strength, the Chiefs threw the ball with varying results. In all, they threw 31 passes and ran 19 times, a large imbalance for a team that was in the lead for much of the game.

That’s two games, if you’re counting, that the Chiefs didn’t use Charles as they should have. The Chiefs are 2-3 and now have to play catch-up with the Chargers and Broncos in the AFC West, in part, because their best player has been a spectator too many times this season.

Charles, ever the team player, wouldn’t be critical of his coach.

"He calls he plays," Charles said. "Whatever he says, that’s what we’ve got to do."

Reid heads a solid coaching staff that deserves credit for helping the Chiefs recover from a disastrous season opener. But he’s not above the occasional lapse in judgment.

He made more than his normal share on Sunday.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Kansas City Chiefs' 22-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers:
  • Smith
    Quarterback Alex Smith, who formerly played for the 49ers, received an enthusiastic cheer from a large group of San Francisco fans as he departed the Chiefs' locker room after the game. Smith posed for pictures with fans and one yelled, "Thank you, Alex" before Smith headed to the Chiefs' bus.
  • Running back Jamaal Charles rushed for 80 yards to move into second place on the Chiefs' all-time rushing list behind Priest Holmes. Charles can pass Holmes with 53 yards in Kansas City's next game on Oct. 19 against the Chargers in San Diego, but said the mark wouldn't mean much to him if the Chiefs don't win.
  • Defensive backs Phillip Gaines and Chris Owens appear to have avoided serious injury after they collided while covering a kick. Gaines took a hit to the head while Owens has what the Chiefs called a bruised knee.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This has happened before, you'll remember, the Kansas City Chiefs playing against the San Francisco 49ers with a quarterback discarded by the opponent in favor of one now starting for the 49ers.

Then, it was the Chiefs vs. the 49ers and Joe Montana vs. Steve Young at Arrowhead Stadium in September 1994. The matchup between two eventual Hall of Fame quarterbacks seemed at the time to be bigger than life and the Chiefs won 24-17.

Jones
Kaepernick
Smith
On Sunday, it will be the Chiefs vs. the 49ers and Alex Smith vs. Colin Kaepernick at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Neither Smith nor Kaepernick appears at this point of his career to be headed for the Hall of Fame, but otherwise the situation is identical.

The 49ers once chose as their starting quarterback Kaepernick over Smith, just as 20 years earlier they opted for Young over Montana. They traded Smith to the Chiefs, just as they once traded Montana to Kansas City.

History proved the 49ers made the right decision to go with Young over Montana. Montana played two seasons for the Chiefs, quarterbacking the franchise's last two playoff victories and guiding Kansas City to the AFC Championship Game following the 1993 season. Young played seven more seasons and helped the 49ers win Super Bowl XXIX over the San Diego Chargers.

It isn't clear yet whether the 49ers made the right call in keeping Kaepernick over Smith. Either way, it may never be as clear as the Young-Montana verdict is today.

Kaepernick and Smith have different styles but statistically they could be twins. Since the start of the 2012 season, Smith's record as a starting quarterback is 19-8-1 and Kaepernick's is 19-8. Smith has 43 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions, Kaepernick has 37 and 15. Smith has a passer rating of 93.7, identical to that of Kaepernick.

The winning quarterback on Sunday might get bragging rights in this rivalry between the two players but they would only be temporary. A true winner will take a long time to determine.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Through one quarter of the NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs are tied for eighth in scoring with an average of 25.5 points. Anyone who saw that coming after their dismal season opener against the Tennessee Titans has a bright future in predicting the future.

But the Chiefs have rapidly improved and evolved offensively in ways that even they couldn’t have seen. They have scored 75 points in their past two games, one reason they can be optimistic though they’ll be facing one of the NFL’s best defensive teams on Sunday when they play the 49ers in San Francisco.

Here are some factors as to why the Chiefs have developed offensively the way they have:

[+] EnlargeKnile Davis
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelThe emergence of RB Knile Davis has helped boost Kansas City's offense.
1. The development of Knile Davis. Who knew that four games into a season and two months after giving a contract extension to Jamaal Charles that the Chiefs would be splitting the work between their two running backs? And who knew Davis would be fourth in the NFL in rushing?

"We expected him to be able to step in and do some things,'' coach Andy Reid said of Davis. "That’s kind of how we went about it in [offseason practice] and training camp, rotating him in and making sure he felt a part of it and was comfortable in there with some of the things we’re doing.''

It's one thing to make plans and another to successfully execute them. After the Tennessee game, in which Davis was given the ball just twice, it appeared he was destined to spend another season caddying for Charles.

But injuries to Charles forced the Chiefs to utilize Davis. He still struggles as a pass-blocker and receiver, but that's OK as long as Charles is healthy. The Chiefs can get a lot of things done and be difficult to defend with two different but productive players sharing the featured back role.

2. The depth at tight end. With Anthony Fasano, Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris, the Chiefs were hopeful they would improve greatly at tight end over last season. But because Kelce and Harris had never played in an NFL game, they weren't certain. As Reid put it, “You didn’t know. You thought you knew but you didn’t know until you saw the results.’’

Chiefs tight ends caught a total of 53 passes and five touchdowns last season. They're already at 27 catches and three touchdowns this season, much of that from Kelce. He's their leader in receptions (18) and receiving yards (259).

The offense has revived since the Chiefs began utilizing all three tight ends in the game at the same time.

“The one thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised about is that those guys have done such a good job and taken so much pride in the blocking in the run game,'' quarterback Alex Smith said. "That’s how we’ve found that balance. All of a sudden we’re getting those kinds of matchups where defenses really have to make a choice how do you play when we've got [multiple] tight ends in the game.''

3. Little production from wide receivers. This isn't surprising considering the Chiefs didn't get much from their wide receivers last year. But this year's numbers are even lower. The Chiefs are 30th in wide receiver catches (34), 32nd in yards (386) and they are the only NFL team without a touchdown catch from a wide receiver. This is a graphic illustration that the strength of the Chiefs' offense is at running back and tight end.

4. De'Anthony Thomas has yet to play. The Chiefs had expectations for Thomas, a rookie who is world-class fast. But a strained hamstring has prevented him from getting into uniform yet this season. He could be available for Sunday's game. The Chiefs will undoubtedly try to work him in their lineup, and you couldn't blame them for trying. But they have to be careful he doesn't take playing time away from the players making their offense go, namely Charles, Davis and the tight ends.

5. The stabilization of the offensive line. The line started the season extremely shaky, which shouldn't have been a shock considering the newness. The Chiefs began the season with a rookie at right guard (Zach Fulton), a player who joined the Chiefs in late August at left guard (Mike McGlynn) and a right tackle who played guard for most of his NFL career (Jeff Allen). Then the Chiefs lost Allen for the season with an injury in the season opener, forcing them to use a journeyman, Ryan Harris, at right tackle. But the line appears to be coming together. It played its best game of the season on Monday night against New England.

SPONSORED HEADLINES