The Loop

This brilliant (and soon-to-be illegal) play by Alex Smith may have been the difference in the WFT's win

December 08, 2020

Throughout his whole career, Alex Smith has never been able to shake the "game manager" label, this despite leading the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship and taking the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs in four out of his five seasons there. If that's what earns you the "game manager" moniker, than Smith is one of the more brilliant game managers to ever play the position.  

All the proof of this could be seen on Monday night, when Smith, on one leg, mind you, led his 4-7 Washington Football Team to a 23-17 victory over the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. Smith didn't light up the box score or wow anyone like Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers does, but he did everything his team needed to do to win. 

His best play came late in the second quarter, when the WFT offense was hoping to put some points on the board before halftime. On 3rd and 16 at the Steelers 24-yard line, Smith, who had no timeouts to work with, was sacked for a loss of seven. Knowing the clock was ticking away, Smith got up and ran to the sideline with the football in his hands. That caused an "administrative issue," which stopped the clock and gave the WFT time to kick the field goal: 

Because there was no ball on the field, the refs had to stop the clock and wait for a kicking ball. That gave the field goal team plenty of time to get on the field and tack on three points, making it 14-3. The WFT eventually came back and led 20-17, ultimately winning 23-17. Smith's play wasn't THE difference in the game, but it was an enormous three points that certainly changed the momentum and helped his team win. It was genius. His explanation for doing it was even more brilliant. 

“I knew we were going hurry up, field goal," Smith said afterward. "I was pretty upset with myself for taking the sack at that point but I was running off to trying to get that ball off so they could get the K-ball [kicking ball] on. 

“Because usually that happens very seamlessly with the changeover, but from what I understand talking to the refs I think there was a little bit of a problem with the COVID, there's less people on the sidelines, less ball boys and that wasn't as fluid,” he added. 

This could very well be a genuine answer from Smith, but it was also the perfect way to excuse himself from any wrongdoing. It's very similar to when Titans head coach Mike Vrabel intentionally took a too-many-men penalty earlier this season, then tried to explain that there was nothing intentional about it in his postgame press conference. Chess, not checkers.