No, your eyes weren’t fooling you in the Chiefs’ 27-17 loss to the Broncos last Sunday.

In the biggest game of the year, in front of a nationwide audience, the Chiefs — a team that won its first nine games by playing conservatively, sitting on leads and relying on defense — aired it out a season-high 45 times.

What’s more, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith attempted 12 passes that traveled more than 15 yards in the air, the most he’s had in a game all season, and nearly as many as he attempted in the Chiefs’ previous three games combined (13).

That sudden willingness to throw downfield had to ease the minds, at least somewhat, of those who have been questioning the 9-1 Chiefs’ ceiling for this season. Since 2008, every Super Bowl champion has averaged at least 7.1 yards per pass attempt, a statistic that Dick Vermeil once said has one of the most direct correlations to a team’s won-loss record. In today’s NFL, that mark is roughly in the middle of the pack and, at the very least, demonstrates an occasional ability to hit the big play in the passing game.

By comparison, the Chiefs are at 6.0 yards per pass attempt, which ranks dead last in the league. They have 28 passing plays of 20 yards or more, which puts them in a tie for 22nd. But when asked recently if a team can win a Super Bowl without showing the ability to take the top off a defense, as Randy Moss famously put it, Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson thought it could.

“I would like to say yes,” Pederson said. “You look at the history and some of the great defenses with teams that have won the Super Bowl … off the top of my head I can’t think of how many deep balls were actually attributed to wins. (But) it’s part of the game and you have to do that and put your guys in position to make the plays down the field.”

Pro Football Focus’ numbers say Smith has been one of the most risk-averse quarterbacks in the league this season. Entering the Denver game, he’d attempted passes of 20 yards or more on only 5.7 percent of his throws, the lowest mark in the league. His “splurge” against Denver brought him out of the basement in this category; his current mark of 6.1 percent is now higher than Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan’s 5.6.