Chiefs wide receivers still searching for score
KANSAS CITY (AP) - Alex Smith took the snap from center, looked to his right and saw Dwayne Bowe open in the end zone. For a fleeting second, it appeared as if one of this season's biggest statistical anomalies would be resolved.
Just maybe, a Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver would catch a touchdown pass.
With a flick of his wrist, Smith released the pass. And wouldn't you know it? It was batted by New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace, landed in the hands of Anthony Fasano - who'd been blocked to the ground on the play - and all the tight end had to do was roll over the goal line.
Another touchdown for a Chiefs tight end. Another missed opportunity for the wide receivers.
"Do I give them the business about it?" Chiefs coach Andy Reid asked with a smile. "Yeah, I try not to let that slide. They're good about it, though."
The Chiefs are the first team since the Cleveland Browns in 2009 to go through their first eight games without a wide receiver catching a touchdown pass. The Browns actually made it nine games without such a TD catch, a mark the Chiefs could match in Sunday's game at Buffalo.
Only three teams have ever gone through an entire season without a wide receiver catching a touchdown pass, according to STATS, and all of them played in a bygone era.
The previous to do that were the New York Giants in 1964 - Lyndon B. Johnson was president, "Mary Poppins" was the hot film and the Chicago Bears had the NFL's best passing offense at just over 200 yards per game.
In fact, only nine teams in league history have had one touchdown catch from their wide receivers over the course of the season, and none of those have occurred since 1977.
"It's not the focus point, man," Chiefs wide receiver A.J. Jenkins said. "You know, we obviously know it hasn't happened yet, but it's going to happen eventually."
It has to, right? But through eight games, the Chiefs' receiving group has been oh-so-close so many times that it's starting to seem as if the fates are lined up against it.
Jenkins had a shot in the first quarter of last weekend's 24-10 win over the Jets, hauling in a 10-yard pass from Smith and fighting to the 1-yard line, where he was brought down.
Jamaal Charles ran twice up the middle to give Kansas City the touchdown.
"I was close twice. I was close in San Diego," Jenkins said, shaking his head. "We have to get over that hump. I would have been the first one, but we'll find a way."
It's not as if the statistical oddity has been costly.
After dropping its first two games of the season, Kansas City (5-3) has won five of its past six, climbing into playoff contention. The offense piled up 34 points against Miami, 41 points the next week against New England, and was dynamic in a 34-7 rout of the Rams two weeks ago.
Smith, meanwhile, has thrown 11 touchdown passes, which puts him firmly in the middle of the pack among NFL quarterbacks. It just happens that all of them have gone to tight ends and running backs, including that bizarre touchdown catch that Fasano had last Sunday against the Jets.
"We want to get everybody involved in scoring touchdowns, but to be honest, when you're out there playing, that's not something I'm thinking about," Smith said. "When a play gets called, there's reads and things that go into it, you're going out there trying to throw the ball where it goes. We're not trying to press and force it to this guy or that guy."
Still, many wide receivers tend to be streaky. Getting them early touches, or a touchdown, can ensure they'll be involved for the entire game. And getting that done on a weekly basis can result in more productivity for the entire offense.
That happened to Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe in 2010. He caught his first touchdown pass in Week 3 that season, and proceeded to score 13 times over the next eight weeks. He finished the season with a league-leading 15 touchdown catches - or, 15 more than the entire group of Chiefs wide receivers have scored through eight games this season.
"Right now other guys are getting opportunities and making plays, and right now on third downs I'm moving chains and giving guys opportunities to score those touchdowns," Bowe said. "As long as I'm contributing, man, I'm feeling good, the team's rolling, everybody has that confidence to move forward late in the season, that's what I'm doing."