Alex Smith has attempted over 5,000 passes in his NFL career, and the 12-yard completion he had to Cam Sims in the third quarter of Washington's win over the Bengals on Sunday was certainly one of the most straightforward.
With his offense backed up near its own goal line, Smith took a second-and-9 snap, flipped his feet to the right and threw the ball to Sims, who had barely moved from his position out wide. The receiver then did all of the work, racing from the line of scrimmage past the sticks for a much-needed gain. All Smith had to do was catch, release and watch.
Well, on Monday, Ron Rivera explained why that connection, which looked like an elementary-level play on the pro level, was actually so much more.
"We had a different play on," Rivera said in a presser. "He read the defense, he saw the cornerback off, he knew the corner had the deep outside third, so he whipped it out there to Cam."
"I hear Scotty [Turner] in my headset," the head coach added. "When he makes the play, he'll say, 'That's a heck of a decision.'"
Washington would cap off that drive with a field goal that turned a one-score advantage into a two-score lead. From there, the hosts cruised to their third victory of 2020.
For much of Smith's career, the general discussion has centered on what he doesn't do. There are complaints about his conservative nature and a lack of gaudy stats.
In addition to those usual critiques, some are currently wondering why Rivera is starting him. He's 36 and there's a 23-year-old former first-round selection behind him. One could very well have a lengthy future ahead of him in the league, and it's not Smith.
Yet that third-quarter, few-second sequence is what those who tout Smith, like Rivera, will point to in response to the questions about the passer.
He may not be the most aggressive, but he's definitely one of the most aware. He may not put up the giant numbers, but he can help find some hidden ones. And he may not be the answer for years down the road, but thanks to his experience, he is the answer for right now.
"Those things are invaluable," Rivera said of what Smith did ahead of the completion to Sims.
They also aren't very easy to notice, at least to those on the outside. On the inside, however, the ones who line up with Smith and who coach Smith pick up on them and appreciate them. To put it simply, there's a widespread belief that he will always put the team in the best position to succeed, and perhaps that'll be enough to get Washington into playoff position come January.