KANSAS CITY — Alex Smith's even disposition never changed, even after the Chiefs quarterback held his own in an entertaining shootout with Chargers counterpart Philip Rivers.
He was rebuffing all those critics who said he couldn't throw the ball downfield. He was proving that he's more than just a "game manager," that almost derogatory term for a passer who doesn't have the arm strength or courage to fit difficult throws into tight spots.
So leave it to Smith's offensive coordinator, Doug Pederson, to explain exactly what it meant for the veteran quarterback to finally have a breakout performance.
"From a quarterback's perspective, it definitely helps his confidence," said Pederson, who spent seven seasons playing the position. "I think what you saw is what we've been talking about all year, things coming together for him at the right time."
Smith finished 26 of 38 for 294 yards and three touchdowns in a back-and-forth loss, and the result may be why he refused to boast about his performance. But it was the most yards he'd thrown for since last season, when he was with San Francisco, and the fourth-most of his career.
The three TD passes matched a career high. His completion percentage and quarterback rating (106.7) also were season bests.
"In the end, it just comes down to execution," Smith said. "I thought we executed more consistently across the board. We were good in the red zone. I thought we stayed out of a lot of third-and-longs. All of those things kind of lead to success."
The prevailing thought all season was Kansas City couldn't win a high-scoring game, and that its defense would have to carry the load. But while the Chiefs didn't beat San Diego, Smith and his cohorts at least proved that they could pick up some slack.
In fact, Smith's passing total was the best by a Chiefs quarterback since Week 2 of last season, when Matt Cassel threw for 303 yards in a loss to Buffalo.
"Alex has a real strong arm; he's very smart. He's the full quarterback," said Chiefs wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who played with Smith in San Francisco. "I think when you put up those kind of numbers against a good defense like the Chargers, now you know you can do it."
The Chiefs might need him to do it again, too.
They're facing the prospect of playing Denver without top pass rusher Justin Houston, and with fellow linebacker Tamba Hali hobbled by a sprained ankle. And even with them on the field, they didn't do a whole lot to shut down Peyton Manning and Co. two weeks ago.
Manning threw for 323 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs at Mile High Stadium, leading Denver to a 27-17 victory that ended Kansas City's perfect start to the season.
Smith was just 21 of 45 for 230 yards, though he did throw a pair of TD passes.
Manning may have the advantage in a back-and-forth affair simply by virtue of the vast number of pass catchers at his disposal. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are matchup nightmares because of their size, and Wes Welker presents a different set of problems with his hands and speed.
The Chiefs have struggled all season to find a set of reliable hands.
Tight end Sean McGrath made it clear who he wanted throwing him the ball.
"I take my quarterback over anyone," he said. "I have 100 percent confidence in him, and I know the rest of the offense does as well."