ALAMEDA -– Alex Smith has not been kind to the Raiders. The former 49er and current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is 5-1 against the Silver and Black, with dominant stats in the series.
He's completed 100-of-169 passes against the Raiders for 1,307 yards and…get this: 14 touchdowns to just one interception. Offenses under his command have averaged 30 points per game in the series. While the Chiefs have had superior talent in recent meetings, the Raiders can’t seem to solve Smith.
"I think Alex has been a good player his entire time in the league,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a good quarterback. He’ll beat you with his feet. He’ll beat you with his arm. He’s poised. He hasn’t turned the ball over. That typically leads to good football.”
Smith has been playing good football this season, regardless of opponent. He has 2,681 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Smith’s interception count is typically low, but his current pick drought is lengthy. He hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 3, a stretch of 283 pass attempts without it landing in the wrong hands. It is the longest stretch in franchise history and the longest in the NFL this season.
New England’s Tom Brady holds the all-time record with 335 attempts between picks in 2010.
“It comes more down to you’re not thinking about the interception, you’re thinking about that completion,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Then the time that he spends working on execution and studying tape and doing those things I think adds up into limited turnovers.”
The Chiefs have limited their turnovers as a group. They haven’t lost possession since Oct. 18. That’s a five-game streak where –- surprise, surprise –- the Chiefs have won each game and climbed back into the playoff race after a 1-5 start to the season.
The Chiefs are plus-14 in the last five games. The Raiders are minus-3 in that span.
“We work hard and talk a lot about takeaways, find different ways how to get the ball out, find different ways to get an edge to get in front of the ball and make plays,” Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “Then on the other side of it, the offense tries to make it a no-turnover day where they try to protect the ball a lot. So they’ve done a really good job of protecting the ball and we’d like to continue to improve our ability to take the ball away. So it’s going to be a really good challenge for us.”
Much of that has to do with Smith being smart. Smith is known as a check-down artist, though his 7.6 yards per pass attempt is second only to his 2012 season in Santa Clara. His current number is 11th among NFL quarterbacks. Jeremy Maclin has helped in that regard, as had speedy tight end Travis Kelce.
“I feel like we go out there to make plays and score points and that’s the mindset,” Smith said. “In doing so, there’s a way of going about your business as a quarterback, when you touch the ball every play, you get a lot of responsibility. You can’t be careless with it. But, you know you’re going out there to score points as an offense.”
They have done so in smart ways, and the Raiders must turn the tables by forcing uncharacteristic mistakes.
"You’re not going to get a lot of opportunities so, when you have them, you have to really take advantage," Norton said. "At the same time, they really put high value on protecting the ball and you know the stats that go with it. You protect the ball, you win a lot of ball games. If we take the ball away, we win a lot of ball games. It’s our offensive and defensive philosophy.”