Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles gazed up at the big screen at Ralph Wilson Stadium last Sunday and got the attention of Eric Bieniemy.
“Did you see that run?” Charles asked Bieniemy, his position coach.
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The replay didn’t feature Charles or anybody else in the Chiefs’ 23-13 victory at Buffalo. The player and coach were watching in amazement as Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson lugged several Dallas Cowboys into the end zone, and at that moment, nobody in the NFL could have felt a greater sense of pride than Bieniemy.
Peterson’s position coach for his first five years with the Vikings was Bieniemy. The two actually go back further to Bieniemy’s days as an assistant coach at Colorado, where he started recruiting Peterson, a Texas high school phenom.
Bieniemy left the Vikings after the 2010 season but remains close with Peterson, staying in communication with him during the tragic circumstances of his son’s deathlast month.
“We’ve found time to stay in contact,” Bieniemy said.
As Peterson was turning in one of the most memorable moments of the weekend, Charles was doing his usual remarkable thing in Buffalo, on his way to accounting for about 46 percent of the Chiefs’ total yards in the team’s ninth straight victory.
Charles leads the Chiefs in rushing (an AFC-best 725 yards) and receiving (389), accounting for an eye-popping 39 percent of his team’s offense.
Peterson and Charles are at the top of their games, and Bieniemy, in his first season with the Chiefs after spending the last two years at his alma mater, Colorado, has seen them at their best.
“They’re different backs, but the one constant between them is how competitive they are,” Bieniemy said. “The desire to be great in everything they do, that’s what makes them special.”
After watching the Peterson clip, Bieniemy thought, “That’s the angry man, he’s back.”
With Charles, Bieniemy sees the same determination in different aspects of his game.
“What Jamaal brings is he’s very well-rounded,” Bieniemy said. “He does a lot in the running game, a lot in the passing game and does a great job in pass protection.”
It’s the latter attribute — Charles’ willingness to take on larger, charging defenders to give quarterback Alex Smith an extra beat to get off a pass — that separates Charles and wins admiration.
“The one thing you can kind of fall asleep on is thinking he’s a player who can’t dominate in pass protection, but he does, and takes pride in that,” Bieniemy said. “I love that. He has heart and desire and accepts the challenge.”
And there’s this: Charles dominates the fourth quarter. He owns an NFL-best 67 attempts and 310 rushing yards in the fourth, a primary factor (along with having the NFL’s top scoring defense, per game) in the Chiefs leading the league in fourth-quarter possession time, holding the ball for an average of 60.16 percent of the quarter.
The close nature of Chiefs’ fourth quarters is one reason why Bieniemy has been riding Charles at the expense of rookie Knile Davis, the third-round draft selection from Arkansas.
“I’ve got to do a better of getting Knile in the mix,” Bieniemy said. “(But) it’s hard to pull Jamaal off the field doing the things he’s doing.”
Davis had fumble issues at Arkansas, and that remains a concern, just it was in the early years of Peterson and Charles.
But Bieniemy said Davis is progressing on schedule, and has a great mentor in Charles.
“He’s learning how to be a professional on and off the field, learning how to study tape the correct way, take the proper notes, the details of those things,” Bieniemy said.
“And he knows that if something happens, the role become his and he has to be fully prepared to accept the challenge right away.”