KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Seventy-two is a number that won’t go away anytime soon.
The figure represent the total amount of sacks Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who has gone done 18 times through four games, is currently on pace for.
And there are concerns whether Smith can survive a full 16-game schedule given the number of hits.
For his part, Smith said he feels good physically and wanted to shift the attention from the sacks to where he feels it belongs.
“I think we all know that that kind of trajectory is not where we want to be and yeah, it’s not a good thing and you hope to get it changed,” Smith said. “But with that, I think the focus, like I said, you’re not going out there like, ‘OK, we’re not going to take sacks.’ That’s not the focal point. The focus is we’re going to go out there and score points.”
Nevertheless, the majority of sacks fall squarely on the five players responsible for protecting Smith, specifically left tackle Donald Stephenson, left guard Ben Grubbs, rookie center Mitch Morse, right guard Zach Fulton and right tackle Eric Fisher.
Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said the offensive linemen work hard in practice and he sees improvement.
“That’s something that we continue to work on, the pass protection side of it,” Pederson said. “Our guys are getting better, they’re working hard.
“I’m not going to make any excuses about it, we do have to get better in that area and allow Alex some time to throw the ball down the field. Our guys know that and it’s a pride thing and we continue to work on it every day.”
More importantly, Pederson said the unit has made adjustments after allowing 17 total sacks in the past three games to the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals.
“It’s good to see the guys make the necessary adjustments,” Pederson said, “either during the course of the game or on a Tuesday when we watch the game film and they make the corrections in the practice on a Wednesday or Thursday. The corrections are there, they’re making the improvement and we just have to take that over to the game.”
While the Chiefs continue to work on the offensive line to better protect Smith, a breather could exist in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears.
Denver (18) and Green Bay (17) rank first and second, respectively, in the league in sacks, while Cincinnati (11) is tied for sixth.
The Bears rank 23rd in the league with six sacks through four games.
Second-year pro Zach Fulton, who began the season as the backup center, returned to the starting lineup in Week 4 at right guard, a position he started all 16 games as a rookie in 2014.
Fulton said the transition from being a backup to resuming his starting role was easy when he received word he was replacing Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who started the first three games.
“Every week you have to prepare like you’re going to play,” Fulton said. “Those first few weeks where I wasn’t playing, I still prepared the same that I’m doing now. I wasn’t getting as much reps, but mentally I was still in the same place. I prepared like I was going to play every week.”
It also helped the Chiefs didn’t limit Fulton at center with the second-team offense during weekly practices since the season began.
“It wasn’t too much because in practice I was still doing guard a little bit and center as well,” he said. “It wasn’t too much of a transition getting back to guard.
Fulton said the game speed in Week 4 wasn’t an issue because he was accustomed to starting in 2014, and he hopes to show he can hold the job the rest of the way.
“Just keep getting better each week – that’s the plan,” Fulton said. “I’m going to try and be more consistent in everything I do.”
WITH THE GOOD
Second-year kicker Cairo Santos went 7 of 7 on field goals attempts in Week 4 and established a franchise record for most field goals in a single game.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said a game like that gave Santos confidence, but Toub also took a moment to be a coach and mentor.
“We lost the game,” Toub said. “And then he did, you know, I did remind him he did have that kick out of bounds. It’s kind of, you know, he wasn’t perfect.”
Toub said Santos has kicked the ball out of bounds during practice, but it appears the issue is correctable.
“He yanks kickoffs every once in a while and that’s really what he did,” Toub said. “He just tried to over-kick it. He tried to kick a touchback when we didn’t need it, but he learned from that and he won’t make that mistake again.”