Chiefs offense remains a work in progress

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Another week down, another victory notched on the Chiefs’ belt.

But it’s no secret the Chiefs are primarily winning behind a defense currently tied or ranked first in numerous statistical categories, including points allowed per game (10.8), sacks (31), takeaways-giveaways (12), interceptions (10), fumble recoveries (8) and defensive touchdowns (3).

Oct 13, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) is pressured by Oakland Raiders defensive end Jason Hunter (93) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) is pressured by Oakland Raiders defensive end Jason Hunter (93) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

While the Chiefs boast a perfect 6-0 record, the team hasn’t been flawless, especially on offense.

And for a second straight week, coach Andy Reid assumed responsibility.

“Offensively, we did some good things and we have some things we need to work on,” Reid said during Monday’s media session. “I didn’t think I did a very good job of putting the guys in position to make plays and I think that it was obvious at times.”

A case of déjà vu, perhaps?

“The bottom line is, and I mentioned it after the game, I have to do a better job of making sure I get these guys in the right position and calling the right plays for them,” Reid said on Oct. 7. “And once they get that done, the situation will be all right.”

Unfortunately, all hasn’t been right for the offense where the problems haven’t been under a spotlight because the team is winning.

Of course, the ground game isn’t a concern, as running back Jamaal Charles anchors the league’s 12th-ranked rushing attack (119 yards per game). Charles, who leads the AFC in yards from scrimmage with 775 (475 rushing, 300 receiving), has surpassed 100 total yards in every game this season.

Meanwhile, Kansas City’s passing game ranks 26th (207.3 yards per game).

Quarterback Alex Smith completed 14-of-31 passes for 128 yards with no touchdowns in Week Six’s 24-7 win over the Oakland Raiders, marking a second straight week he hasn’t thrown a touchdown.

In Week Five’s 26-17 win against the Tennessee Titans, Smith completed 20-of-39 passes for 245 yards and an interception.

Through six games, Smith has been sacked 16 times, a total tied for the sixth-most in the NFL. Smith also sports a 56.5 completion percentage, his lowest since 2007 when he posted a 48.7 completion percentage in seven games.

“I wouldn’t say it’s lack of efficiency,” Reid said during Sunday’s postgame media session in response to a reporter’s question on Smith’s performance. “He’s taking care of the football. When it counts he makes the play. I appreciate him. We’re winning football games, and he’s doing a nice job managing it.”

Smith has excelled in ball security, going three straight games to start the season without a turnover before throwing two interceptions in Week Four and one in Week Five.

Moreover, he’s been dependable in the clutch when the Chiefs need a play and Smith has proven he can get it done with his legs, where he ranks fourth among quarterbacks with 190 yards rushing.

Nevertheless, inconsistency on third downs and slow starts remain glaring issues on offense.

The Chiefs currently rank 27th through six weeks in converting third downs at 32.6 percent, a percentage boosted by Week Four’s 9-of-16 (56 percent) effort against the New York Giants.

In the past two games, the Chiefs were 1-of-12 (8 percent) against the Titans and 4-of-14 (29 percent) against the Raiders.

Game-opening drives haven’t been kind, as the offense has scored on its first possession twice this season, with a touchdown in Week Two and a field goal in Week Three.

“You want to score more on offense, obviously,” Reid said. “You want to score every time we touch the football. That’s the mentality we have on the offensive side.”

The apparent solution to the offensive deficiencies boils down to execution, a point Smith made during his Sunday postgame media session.

“It starts with that, execute on first and second downs, get yourself in some better third downs and move the chains,” Smith said. “That’s the bottom line, especially when we struggle to do it so much.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ next two opponents won’t offer an easy remedy for the passing game before the Week 10 bye.

Despite four straight losses, the Houston Texans, Week Seven’s opponent, rank first against the pass (131.3 yards allowed per game), while Week Eight’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, rank eighth against the pass (214.3 yards).

Kansas City’s passing game could have an easier go in Week Nine against the Buffalo Bills, who rank 22nd against the pass (270.8 yards) and have allowed 12 touchdown passes, which currently ties for third-most in the NFL.

The Chiefs haven’t been in a shootout situation through six games, but fixing the offense is clearly on Reid’s mind.

“I’m never going to make an excuse for you, that’s not the way we roll,” Reid said. “The reality of it is we’re a little bit young and we have to get better. Progressively we have to do that as we go. I’m seeing some phases where we’re getting better and we have to continue to do that. We’re going to work our tails off to get better.”

Effectively addressing the struggles is highlighted by a date likely circled on numerous calendars around the league, a Nov. 17 contest against the Denver Broncos, who own the NFL’s other 6-0 record and the No. 1 offense.

But in the meantime, the Chiefs can always rely on a proven formula until the offense finds its footing.

“On offense, we got to start moving the ball a little bit more and just executing a little bit better,” fullback Anthony Sherman said in the locker room following Week Six’s game. “Our defense keeps us in games and we find a way to win.”