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Jamaal Charles can thank his line, and coaching staff, for sticking with the screen

Updated: 2013-12-18T14:36:24Z

By TEREZ A. PAYLOR

The Kansas City Star

With the Chiefs needing 9 yards to run out the clock on the Raiders on Sunday, backup quarterback Chase Daniel told his linemen the play — a fourth-down screen pass to fullback Anthony Sherman — and the group was silently delighted.

“I was like, ‘That’s great — keep running (the screens),’ ” guard Jeff Allen said with a laugh. “I was always taught, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ We were good all day with them.”

Good? Try great.

Sherman picked up the first down with a 15-yard catch and run, and while the outcome was hardly in doubt at the point — the Chiefs led 56-31 with only a minute remaining — it was a perfect ending to a game in which the Chiefs tortured the Raiders with the screen pass.

“We knew against a team like the Raiders, (one) that runs a lot of man coverage, that screens are a big part of that kind of game plan,” right guard Geoff Schwartz said.

But as far as the final tally goes — six catches, 127 yards and three touchdowns came on screens — well, even they didn’t expect that.

“We knew they could be good for us,” left tackle Donald Stephenson said of the screen plays, “but not like that. That was crazy.”

Stephenson and his fellow linemen hinted that it’s not hard to figure out why the plays worked, either. In running back Jamaal Charles, who racked up 104 of his career-high 195 receiving yards on three screen passes, the offensive line finds itself blocking for a man who has re-established himself as one of the league’s most explosive big-play threats.

“You get that guy in space, you make a few blocks, you’re gonna see what you saw (Sunday),” Allen said. “It doesn’t take much (to spring him). Just get in front of your guys, cover your guys up, and he’s gonna make you look good.”

Thing is, Charles knows he can’t do it without his blockers. On the first screen, when he burst for a 49-yard touchdown, center Rodney Hudson took out two guys downfield. On the second, which Charles took 39 yards to the house, Allen took out two more Raiders downfield. On the third, a 16-yard touchdown pass, Hudson, Allen and Schwartz all got key blocks to spring Charles.

And so it went all game, with Sherman and even backup running back Knile Davis (who netted a 10-yard gain) getting into the act.

“We were anticipating screens,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen said. “We just didn’t play them as well as we needed to play them.”

The fact Oakland was anticipating the screen (though you couldn’t really tell) should hardly be a shock. Several linemen noted that Chiefs coach Andy Reid loves his screen passes, and credited his staff for not only making the plays an emphasis this year, but helping the players execute the plays with proper technique.

“Our job as tackles (is) just to sell pass and make sure — because the quarterback is sinking so deep — that the D-end doesn’t get a free shot on the quarterback,” Stephenson said. “Then our rule is, finish between the ball and the man. So after we block them, we kinda just hustle down field and clean up anything that the guard and center left.”

Allen, who is listed at 6 feet 4 and 307 pounds, and Schwartz, who is listed at 6 feet 6 and 340 pounds, both say they relish getting out in space and showing off their big-guy athleticism.

“I think we’ve got some big guys that can move,” Allen said.

But still, as Stephenson alluded to, there was no way to anticipate what happened Sunday.

“If the first one had gone for five yards, you probably aren’t gonna call as many screens,” Schwartz said. “But when the first one goes to the house, you’re gonna keep calling them.”

And calling them. And calling them. And calling them.

Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano, who is bringing his team into Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, has taken notice of the threat Charles poses on such plays.

“The guy’s a threat to score from anywhere,” Pagano said. “All it takes is one breakdown, one wrong fit … everybody’s got to be singing out of the same hymnal when you play.”

Lest you end up like the Raiders, who never got in tune and could only watch as Sunday’s game ended on a sour note. And while the Chiefs’ last screen pass of the day was hardly their most devastating, they needed a large gain at the time, and Reid simply could not help but go to their bread-and-butter.

“You can tell coach Reid just kinda started rolling with it,” Stephenson said, “and every one of them worked, just about.”

It’s all about the YAC

Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs ranks 11th in yards after catch among all NFL players, and fourth among running backs.

Player, positionTeamRec. yds.YAC
Demaryius Thomas, WRDen.1,194615
Josh Gordon, WRClev.1,467608
Pierre Thomas, RBN.O.503568
Pierre Garcon, WRWash.1,146515
Antonio Brown, WRPitt.1,307495
Kendall Wright, WRTenn.1,007490
Harry Douglas, WRAtl.963483
LeSean McCoy, RBPhil.507475
Matt Forte, RBChi.522466
Calvin Johnson, WRDet.1,449464
Jamaal Charles, RBKC655455

Source: ESPN and Elias Sports Bureau

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.

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