For the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher, it was a run for all-time.
In the second quarter of the Chiefs’ 23-20 win over the Chargers on Sunday, Jamaal Charles took the shotgun handoff and sprinted toward the right sideline, eluding three tacklers on the way.
And just when it seemed like he was about to be corralled, he cut back across the grain — eluding four more tacklers — before he launched himself across the goal line, where he met former teammate Brandon Flowers with a resounding thud.
“That touchdown run,” quarterback Alex Smith said, “it was pretty special to be out there and watch.”
It was a trademark Charles run, one in which he showed off his speed, vision and surprising power, which made it all the more fitting that the 16-yard score — which tied the game at 7-7 — also catapulted the 27-year-old Charles past Priest Holmes as the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher.
“That was as good of a play as I’m probably going to get this year,” Charles said with a grin.
Charles, who finished the day with 22 carries for 95 yards, now has 6,113 career rushing yards as a Chief, 43 more than Holmes, who finished with 6,070 career yards.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’m happy for him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Well deserved. Jamaal is a heck of a player. We counted on him a lot today. A lot of times there wasn’t necessarily something there for him, but he made some nice plays.”
None was nicer than his history-making run, which Charles admits he was thrilled to get out of the way. For the last several weeks, Charles has done all he could to avoid the topic.
“I was tired of getting jinxed,” Charles said. “Everybody was talking about it.”
Charles’ early-season struggles did nothing to quell to his fears. He followed up a paltry seven-carry, 19-yard performance against Tennessee in the season opener by suffering a high-ankle sprain against Denver in week two. He returned two weeks later to face the Patriots, but ever since then, he’s kept his thoughts about the milestone to himself, for the most part.
Charles said the Chiefs’ bye last week was a boon for his recovery, which is why on Sunday he looked as slippery and quick as he has all season.
“Every time you get a break to take care of your body, it’s great,” Charles said. “I felt good out there and really fresh.”
Which is why, perhaps, Charles managed to bounce right back up after taking a blow on his history-making run, while Flowers got up a little groggy.
“Yeah, he put a big hit on me,” Charles said. “I’m thankful that I got up healthy.”
Now, the seventh-year pro is excited to see what else he can accomplish in his career. The Hall of Fame is within reach, provided he can keep up the pace. Charles ranks 77th all-time in career rushing yards, and 13 of the 18 backs who cracked the 11,000-yard barrier have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That could be difficult for Charles to reach, given his age and the multipurpose way in which Chiefs coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson use running backs. But with a few more seasons like last year, when he led the AFC in rushing with 1,287 yards, he’d be a candidate.
“Now that it’s over with, I can just go out there and think about other records to break,” Charles said. “It’s great to be the leading rusher for an organization, but you’ve got guys like Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith with (nearly) 20,000 rushing yards, which is something I wish to get to someday.”
Smith, who played 15 seasons, is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards, while Sanders, who played 10 seasons, is third with 15,269 yards.
With those goals in his sights, Charles suspects his most recent achievement will be something he’ll appreciate more 10 years down the line, when he’s no longer striving to achieve those marks or his ultimate goal, a Super Bowl title.
“Right now, I’m ready for bigger and better things,” Charles said. “I want a ring and that’s what I want more than anything. I don’t want to be known just for my individual awards, I want to be known as a team player as well.”
But that doesn’t mean Charles doesn’t appreciate the achievement now. He does, and he wanted to make sure everyone involved knew how grateful he was for the role they played in helping him make his dashing, darting history-making run on Sunday.
“I want to thank my teammates for helping me get to that goal today, and also thank the coaches, the organization and the man above, because he gave me the blessing to go out there and do my job,” Charles said.