KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Just try to ask Chiefs coach Andy Reid about the remarkable streak of passes that Alex Smith has thrown this season without an interception.
You'll get about four words out before you get shushed.
Who knew Reid was so superstitious?
Smith has thrown 228 consecutive passes without an interception heading into Sunday's game at San Diego, a streak that dates to the third quarter of a Week 3 loss in Green Bay. Smith needs just six more without a pick and to break the franchise record set by Steve DeBerg in 1990.
"Listen, he's great at that," Reid said. "That's one of his real strengths, but again, it's play by play. You've just got to stay on top of it. One thing he's done throughout his career, he has always taken care of the football."
Indeed, Smith has only thrown 13 interceptions in 39 starts since the trade three years ago that brought him from San Francisco to Kansas City. Three of those interceptions were in the first three games this season, including two in an awful Week 2 loss to Denver.
The last time he threw at least 10 picks in a season was 2010, when he was still with the 49ers. He hasn't thrown more than seven in a season since.
Such a streak isn't entirely positive, though.
One of the big knocks on Smith over the years has been his unwillingness to take risks. He would rather throw a pass in the dirt or out of bounds than chance an interception, even if the risk-reward situation might also produce a big gain or touchdown.
Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson even challenged Smith to take more chances during training camp, and insisted Thursday his veteran quarterback is taking calculated gambles.
"You go back to the London game (against Detroit), some of the throws he made there, the touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin down the middle of the field — the tight coverage," Pederson said. "Some of the things we're asking him to do, he's doing it. But he knows in his mind and we know in our mind he's just one of those quarterbacks that's going to protect the football."
The former Utah star's errorless streak is the best in the NFL this season. Tom Brady of the Patriots went 176 throws in September and October without a pick, while the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick is riding a streak of 135 pass attempts dating to an interception on Oct. 4. But Kaepernick has been benched.
The NFL record isn't necessarily out of reach, either.
Bernie Kosar went 308 passes without an interception for the Cleveland Browns from 1990-91, a mark that has withstood stiff tests from Brady, Jeff George and Rich Gannon over the years. Smith is averaging about 33 attempts per game this season, which means the Chiefs quarterback would break the record at some point during his game in Oakland on Dec. 6.
Of course, there are a couple teams standing in the way.
The Chargers figure to offer the least resistance — they have only had five interceptions all season. Buffalo, which visits Arrowhead Stadium on Nov. 29, has picked off 10 passes.
In the meantime, Smith's streak has helped the Kansas City offense take flight. The Chiefs (4-5) piled up 45 points in their victory over the Lions, and routed the Broncos 29-13 last Sunday in a game that was never close, helping them get back in the playoff hunt.
"There's been glimpses of things, and quarters here, quarters there," Smith acknowledged. "I still feel like we've left a lot out there, a lot of room for improvement."
NOTES: OLB Tamba Hali was back at practice Thursday. He sat out Wednesday as usual to rest a bothersome knee. ... CB Sean Smith also returned to practice after dealing with a knee injury early in the week. ... Special teams coach Dave Toub had some effusive praise for P Dustin Colquitt on Thursday, calling him "the best to ever play the game." Colquitt has put 21 punts inside the 20 so far this season. He has 337 such punts during his career.