From Fox Sports Sean Keeler
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- As the late, great Wayne Woodrow Hayes once said, three things can happen when you throw the ball to Donnie Avery. And two of them are bad.
"It's important that when you're given the opportunity to catch it, you have to catch it," Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after his men dropped their third game in a row, as well as several passes along the way.
Quarterback Alex Smith (293 yards passing, two scores one pick) went round for round, punch for punch, with Peyton Manning (403 yards, five scores, two picks), his more ballyhooed contemporary. The difference Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium wasn't 11 versus 18. Not really.
It was Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas versus Avery and Dwayne Bowe. It was eight catches for 174 yards and four scores (Decker) and three for 106 (Thomas) versus two for 17 (Avery) and three for 56 (Bowe). Special-teamer Junior Hemingway was arguably Smith's best, most reliable option, and that was a very, very bad sign. Not because of what Hemingway can or can't do -- he wound up snaring three balls for 42 yards and a score -- but because the people ahead of him on the depth chart dropped rock after rock. Literally.
on their final drive of the night. A.J. Jenkins went high for a 26-yard grab on 3rd-and-14. Dexter McCluster went horizontal for 28 yards on 2nd-and-10. Bowe was clutch for 23 on 1st-and-10, powering the hosts all the way to the Denver 19.
This one is going to be tough to move on from.
It wasn't for lack of want-to, lack of effort -- the Chiefs stepped into the octagon without arguably their best defender (outside linebacker Justin Houston) and kept Manning and his cohorts within shouting distance. Rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper continued to get all kinds of abused, but he hung in there, picking off one of RoboPeyton's wounded ducks and batting another one away.
The Andy Gang was swept by Denver in two meetings over a critical three-week stretch, but they weren't completely outclassed by them, either. If anything, we've learned that the gap between the Chiefs and Broncos might not be about the defense; or the coaches; or Manning vs. Smith, the men throwing the passes.
It's about the men catching them.
Sunday underscored a problem. A problem and a pattern. The Chiefs went into Week 13 ranked fifth in the NFL in percentage of passed dropped (5.9), according to SportingCharts.com, behind only New England (7.5), St. Louis (7.3), Detroit (7.1) and Cleveland (6.2).
The individual numbers aren't especially pretty either, with Jenkins (40 percent drop rate on five targets going into Sunday), McCluster (4.8 percent on 63), Avery (5.4 on 56), Anthony Fasano (12.0 on 25) Jamaal Charles (9.4 on 85) and Anthony Sherman (4.8 on 21) all botching more than 4 percent of the balls thrown their way.
The perception is that the Chiefs, for all their strengths, are still flawed at wideout, especially when compared to their playoff-chasing peers, especially when matched up against the NFL's elite. And the reality -- Sunday's reality, especially -- bears that out.
Alex Smith isn't the problem here, kids. He never was.
But drops matter. Ball security matters. Concentration matters. Being able to keep pace in a shootout -- it's taken 31 points in a game, on average, to beat a Peyton Manning team since 2008 -- matters.
"But (it's) 'Next play. Got to move on,'" Hemingway said. "You've got to have a short memory."
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