For weeks, when quizzed about Jamaal Charles lack of big runs this season, members of the Chiefs offensive line would preach patience: Its coming, one would say. Its only a matter of time, another would say.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
In retrospect, boy was it. After breaking off only one run of 20 yards or more throughout the first nine games of the season, Charles has had two in the last two games, as he finally showed off his trademark speed and elusiveness in the open field on the kind of runs (which went for 35 and 46 yards) that had largely been missing in the Chiefs offense under new coach Andy Reid.
With a new offense, it takes a while for things to click, guard Geoff Schwartz said. Theres little things here and there. As the season goes on, youll see more of this type of running, because I think we know what to do in certain situations. Weve seen every defense we can possibly see. And up front, were starting to do things a little better.
When asked about Charles recent uptick in big-play production hes run for 193 yards on 30 total carries the last two games, an average of 6.4 yards per carry Reid also pointed to the growing cohesion of the offensive line, which had to replace two starters from a group that helped Charles rush for 1,509 yards (with 11 runs of 20 yards or more) last season.
I think the offensive line, theyve done a pretty good job the last couple weeks, Reid said. Theyre feeling each other in the run game and how its working, and its worked out OK.
Whats particularly notable is the fact Charles had his best game of the year in the Chiefs 41-38 loss to San Diego on Sunday with two starters out due to shoulder injuries. Schwartz filled in at right guard for Jon Asamoah, while second-year pro Donald Stephenson filled in at right tackle for rookie Eric Fisher. Together they helped Charles rush for 115 yards and two touchdowns, with 67 of those yards coming outside of the right tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.
I thought they were great, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said of Schwartz and Stephenson. I dont think anybody blinked an eye with those two guys stepping in. Nobody missed a beat.
In fact, one can argue they gave the group a boost. Fisher (negative-7.7) has largely struggled in run blocking this season while Asamoah (plus-0.9) has been good, but the run-blocking grades for Stephenson (plus-2.1) and Schwartz (plus-1.4) against San Diego were the first and third-highest on the team in the San Diego game.
Me and Geoff work pretty good together, Stephenson said. We get a lot of reps on the scout team, we had a lot of reps (against Denver). So we communicate well its something weve done pretty well since the spring.
However, it remains to be seen if Schwartz and Stephenson will get another chance to do their thing this week. Asamoah and Fisher both practiced Thursday and Friday, albeit on a limited basis, and are listed as questionable on the injury report, which means they have a 50/50 chance of playing.
But while Reid praised the play of the backups, their performance was hardly the only reason the Chiefs have been able to help Charles break some long runs recently.
Were getting a little better balance with our offense, Reid said. Thats allowing some things to be available.
In the two games since the bye week, Smith has been slinging it downfield a little more; hes completed seven of 13 deep passes for 165 yards and also drawn two defensive holding penalties. Whats more, Smith was so good against the Chargers (26 of 38 for 294 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions) that Charles only logged 14 carries despite averaging 8.2 yards per rush.
Its kind of a fine line because the passing game was working and our downfield passes were working too, offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. Really, the time of the game dictates what you have to do, especially down the stretch. We needed to get a touchdown to go ahead, and we felt like at the time that throwing the football was key.
Pederson, however, noted that the Chiefs did hit Charles on a 19-yard screen pass that helped set up their final touchdown, an indication that No. 25 is always a focal point.
Thats been the case all season, even when teams were limiting his chunk plays, and will continue to be the case, especially when the running game looks as sharp as it did against the Chargers.
I dont think theres any secret (to it), Smith said. Its just (us) going out there and executing the plays, with him going out there and making some pretty good individual plays (too).
To reach Terez A. Paylor, send email to email@example.com.