Coming into the season, the odds were likely higher of Alex Smith losing his job than being the league’s MVP through the first five weeks.
And yet, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback has not only staved off any notion that rookie Patrick Mahomes is the answer for the present, but has spearheaded the attack of the league’s only unbeaten team.
Smith’s hyper-efficient start to the season continued on Sunday when he led the Chiefs to a 42-34 shootout win over the Houston Texans by connecting on 29-of-37 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns.
The 33-year-old veteran has yet to throw an interception, while posting the highest completion percentage (76.6), yards per attempt (8.8) and passer rating (125.8) of any qualified quarterback in the league.
Alex Smith is the first QB in NFL history to start 5-0 with 250 Pass YPG, at least 10 touchdown passes & 0 interceptions.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 9, 2017
It’s been a surprising start for a signal-caller who has been good, but not great throughout his 13 seasons in the league. The ceiling-capping play over his career led Kansas City to trading up to No10 in this year’s draft to grab Texas Tech prospect Mahomes, who possesses a big arm and is now considered the future of the franchise.
For now, however, Smith has more than just tightened his grasp on the job – he’s consistently playing at a level he’s previously flashed, but never sustained before.
“He’s coming in with a point to prove; I feel like he’s got a point to prove, you know?” said running back Charcandrick West, who caught two of Smith’s scores against the Texans.
“We all know the situation here. We ain’t got to talk about that. He’s coming in, he’s making a lot of decisions hard for a lot of people.”
Some of the credit for Smith’s surge can be accredited to coach Andy Reid’s offensive scheme, which has put his quarterback in position to succeed by playing to his strengths with read-options and plays designed to utilise his mobility.
Smith also has versatile weapons to rely on, with rookie running back Kareem Hunt bursting onto the scene to pair with speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill and dynamic tight end Travis Kelce.
Update: He’s still faster than ya.
Smith ➡️ Hill for a 38-yard gain. pic.twitter.com/a4aX2DiRfK
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 9, 2017
Those weapons have allowed Smith to attack downfield – something which he’s been criticised for not doing throughout his career – to the tune of 14 plays of 20-plus yards and three of 40-plus yards.
“As far as the [improved] numbers go, I think it’s a reflection of the guys around me,” Smith said after carving up the Texans. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that make plays. You saw that tonight.”