Here’s the scary part: The more they work together, the better they get. Less than five minutes into Friday night’s home preseason finale, Alex Smith rolled left and zipped a dart across his body the way Opie Taylor used to skim rocks across a pond.
Jeremy Maclin snared the rock with two hands, away from his chest, falling toward the sideline, where only he could snare it. But instead of letting the momentum carry him out of bounds, No. 19 squared his body, set his feet, and danced 29 yards up the boundary for a touchdown. It was one toss, but it had it all: Timing. Precision. Grace. Payoff.
“Yeah, he looked great, he looked amazing,” Chase Daniel said of Smith, his Kansas City Chiefs teammate, after the Andy Gang rolled to a 34-10 preseason win over the Tennessee Titans. “And one of the (misfires), we had sort of a protection issue, with the incompletion, and the other one, we didn’t really run the right route on it. I thought he played just about as perfect as you can play as a quarterback.”
Just about. On the evening, No. 11 completed 16 first-half passes — seven of them to Maclin, his new go-to wideout — out of 18 first-half attempts for two first-half touchdowns and 171 first-half yards against a purported first-team NFL defense. The Titans bared their teeth, what teeth they had left, and Smith made it look easy. Almost too easy.
“Once a team with that type of firepower gets clicking,” Tennessee cornerback Coty Sensabaugh observed, “it’s hard to stop.”
Alex Smith. Firepower. Same paragraph. Take a picture.
We joke, and yet the Chiefs’ first-team offense during Week 3 of the preseason was anything but. Multiple formations. Shifts. Motions. The Andy Gang was in orchestra mode, with No. 11 as the conductor. Smith’s 143.3 quarterback rating was his highest single-game preseason tally with Kansas City, and it’s believed to be the highest during an exhibition for his NFL career.
That said, the Music City Mariotas gave up 31 points to the Falcons in Atlanta and 278 passing yards to various Rams clipboard-carriers. Seattle, the Titans ain’t.
And yet suddenly, with tough roster decisions looming, the Chiefs appear rich with NFL-capable arms. Daniel’s first two preseason games as Smith’s backup have been the stuff of August legend (25 for 39 passing, four touchdown tosses, 139.0 rating). The presumptive third-teamer, Aaron Murray, survived a shaky first series Friday (1-for-3 with an ill-advised pick) to complete 15 of 20 throws and lead two long, clock-chewing, efficient touchdown drives of his own. Fans clamoring for Daniel over Smith with the No. 1s came away from Friday wondering how gifted No. 7 might be, if he were ever unleashed with a full compliment of weapons riding shotgun.
“I don't even know what's going on (with fans), honestly,” Daniel said of the “Play Chase” bandwagon. “What I worry about every day is just going out there and playing as best I can.
“And I've had one of the more productive preseasons (in my career) this year. And it's just because I'm just going out there and playing. You've just got to go and roll with it — whatever coaches call, just try to find a completion.”
Although here’s a slab of irony: On an evening that saw a whopping 31 receptions racked up by the hosts, the one thing that didn’t see a completion was the game itself. The exhibition was called with 3:50 left in the fourth quarter as torrential rains hit Arrowhead Stadium, followed by lightning, followed by yet more rain. Game officials signaled a halt to the party with the Chiefs up 24, citing players’ “safety,” at about 9:40 local time.
Wisely, neither squad returned from the tunnels. By that point, it was safe to say both sides had seen enough.
Photos: Courtesy of John Reiger and Denny Medley USA Today Sports Images
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