HOUSTON -- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith scrambled from the pocket to his left during the second quarter of Sunday night’s game and set his feet a moment before firing an 8-yard pass to Charcandrick West for the first touchdown of what would become a 42-34 victory over the Houston Texans.
It was a typical play from Smith. The pass to West happened on third down, and on such plays Smith was phenomenal against the Texans. The Chiefs had 10 third-down plays in the first half and converted seven, all on Smith passes, as Kansas City built a 23-7 halftime lead.
Smith has delivered clutch plays for the Chiefs all season and is emerging as Kansas City’s strongest MVP candidate. He threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns against the Texans.
The Chiefs wouldn’t be where they are without rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who has given the Chiefs a third consistent threat to go along with tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
After being contained through the first two quarters, Hunt busted loose in the second half to finish with more than 100 rushing yards. But he still didn’t have the impact for the Chiefs that their quarterback had.
The Chiefs would have been lost without Smith, not only against the Texans, but in all of their five games. Smith is on pace for 35 touchdown passes and more than 4,400 yards. Both totals would shatter his personal season bests of 23 touchdowns (in 2013) and 3,502 yards (2016).
“Alex is playing similar to how he’s played before," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “The results are a bit different. It seems like he’s more in tune [with the receivers] and the receivers are more in tune [with him].
“All of these kids he kind of raised. He knows about every move they’ve got. They like playing with him, and they know every move he’s going to make. It’s kind of a good marriage he’s in there. It’s a good situation he’s in with these receivers."
In Kelce, Hunt, Hill and some solid support players, the Chiefs have surrounded Smith with their best set of skill players since he arrived in 2013. When Smith first joined the Chiefs, they had one of the NFL’s best running backs in Jamaal Charles but weren’t as good at the receiver positions.
By the time Kelce arrived and the Chiefs had improved at wide receiver, Charles was in decline because of a knee injury.
“As far as the [improved] numbers go, I think it’s a reflection of the guys around me," Smith said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that make plays. You saw that tonight."
Smith has yet to throw an interception or lose a fumble through five games this season.
Smith had his big game on Sunday despite losing Kelce at halftime. Kelce had what the Chiefs said was a concussion; he was having an impressive outing, with eight catches for 98 yards.