KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jeremy Maclin darted off the line of scrimmage, saw a soft pocket in the middle of the Cleveland defense, and angled sharply toward the goal posts in the back of the end zone.
Alex Smith zipped a pass between three defenders that hit him right on the hands.
The 13-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter Sunday gave the Kansas City Chiefs an early lead.
But it also allowed Maclin to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving this season, a rare feat under coach Andy Reid and exactly what the franchise hoped for when they signed him as a free agent.
“It seems like every week we look back at the film and I felt like I could have gone Jeremy’s way more,” Smith said, “because he consistently wins. Even when they try to take him away, he consistently wins. He’s that type of player.”
Maclin finished with five catches for 49 yards against Cleveland, giving him 84 catches for 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns — seven more than all Chiefs wide receivers had combined last season.
Not a bad follow-up to last season, when he had 1,318 yards receiving for Philadelphia.
“I think the great thing about him is he’s all team-first. All he cares about is winning,” Smith said. “But credit to him, I think it shows how smart he is besides the talent he has. He sees things so well. He sees it like a quarterback.”
The touchdown reception was a perfect example of it.
Maclin could have broken off his route at any point, but the key to making it work was doing it when Smith expected it. A moment too soon and Smith overthrows him, too late and it’s an interception.
It was the kind of throw into tight coverage that the cautious Smith rarely makes, and almost certainly would avoid trying with any other wide receiver.
“There are a lot of adjustments that are happening in that route and he sees it the exact same way you do, and you trust him,” Smith said. “I think that comes with time. I think with me, it’s proven that Jeremy sees it very well. He’s going to make good decisions out there.”
All of which is why he’s the first Chiefs wide receiver with more than 1,000 yards since Dwayne Bowe in 2011, and only the fourth under Reid to reach that mark. Terrell Owens, Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson all made it when they were with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s nice,” Maclin said, “but that doesn’t really mean much.”
What means something to Maclin is making the playoffs. The Chiefs have matched a franchise record with nine straight wins after their 1-5 start, and clinched no worse than a wild-card slot when Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore on Sunday.
After all, it was the chance to play for a Super Bowl — and to be reunited with Reid, the coach who drafted him in Philadelphia — that lured him to Kansas City.
Maclin considered staying with the Eagles as a free agent, but ultimately signed a $55 million, five-year deal with the Chiefs.
It was a big investment for Kansas City, but one the franchise believed it had to make given the dearth of options. The only other wide receiver with a track record of production last season was Bowe, and his five receptions this season with the Browns proves how far he’s dropped off.
Most importantly, Maclin has given Smith a comfortable target.
“He’s got a lot of trust in Jeremy,” Reid said. “You just have to find that small window.”
Maclin said he won’t be watching the scoreboards, or care much about what happens with Denver the final two games.
All that matters to him is beating Oakland next week and getting ready for the playoffs, where the Chiefs have not won a game since the 1993-94 season.
“The way they assembled this locker room with this mixture between veteran guys and young guys, I think everybody pretty much understands kind of what it takes to be successful,” he said.
“The older guys, myself included, our job is to bring the younger guys along and let them know it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And I think we’ve kind of proven that. We’re in now.”
NOTES: The Chiefs’ game against Oakland has been flexed to a 3:25 p.m. CT kickoff. ... Reid said Monday that the Chiefs will prepare for the Raiders as if they need to win, rather than rest for the playoffs. ... S Husain Abdullah (concussion) is close to returning, Reid said.