The Chiefs officially kicked off the post-LJ era with a 16-10 win over the Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. One of the biggest reasons for the victory was the play of new starting running back Jamaal Charles. For one game, he proved he was up to the challenge. Charles said he is confident he can be the man.
“I told the coaches I can make the 40-yard runs, I can make the 60-yard runs,” Charles said. “Just give me the chance to prove myself and what type of player I am. I’m not going to be the biggest back, and I’m not going to be the strongest back, but I will go out there and give you my all.”
Charles clearly outshined Kolby Smith, who had 12 yards in nine carries Sunday. The Chiefs leaned on Charles for the first time and were delighted with the results.
“His head’s in the right place,” coach Todd Haley said. “He’s obviously got ability. He had probably the biggest play of the game for us, but some others also.”
Charles got the touchdown on a play in which he avoided defenders in the backfield and then carved his way through the defense. He gained 26 yards on a late fourth-quarter drive when the Raiders knew the Chiefs would be running and trying to run out the clock.
He was the Chiefs’ second-leading pass receiver with four catches and preserved what would be a field-goal drive in the second quarter when he jumped on the ball after Matt Cassel fumbled a snap in shotgun formation.
In short, Charles did everything the Chiefs want from their featured back — and in his first chance.
“In college I always ran the ball in the fourth quarter,” Charles said. “That was my game. The defense was wearing down, and I got stronger and stronger.”
“He’s been doing all of the things that are being asked of him,” Haley said. “I let the whole team come in a little later (Saturday) because we had a later flight, but he was in there with the rest of the backs meeting early. He’s been doing those kinds of things, and they usually work out for a player.”
One game doesn’t make a career or even a season, but Charles knew he needed to have a big game in Oakland to get another shot next week at home against the Steelers. Haley clearly holds Kolby Smith in high regard, which you could see this week with Smith getting 9 carries even though he was never effective.
I still think we need to keep an eye on Smith, but Charles has proven — at least for the short term — that he is the best back on the current roster.