Jamaal Charles back at full strength
When Jamaal Charles is put into the Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium they will talk about a track guy who spent his career proving his toughness, and about all the spectacular plays, the long runs, the humility and the love and respect he had from teammates.
It’ll all be true, but I hope they talk some about how well-rounded he is, too. You wouldn’t expect it by looking at him, but he’s a terrific blocker, one of the best at his position. And most guys with his physical gifts don’t need it, but he’s also ruthlessly efficient with his cuts and his reads.
Sunday in Oakland, his first real game back, he showed all of it.
On his very first carry, he was stopped around the Raiders’ 7 ...
... but fought hard enough to break away for a moment, before behind stopped again at the 5 ...
... and fought once more, pushing a couple defenders all the way back to the 2:
Later, he picked up a blitzer with a lockdown block that gave Alex Smith enough time to throw downfield, resulting in a 26-yard gain to Albert Wilson (nice play design, isolating Wilson against linebacker Khalil Mack). That set the ball up near the goal line, where Charles took the handoff on the left side, used that patience to wait for the right opening, and with Anthony Sherman pushing a defender out of the way, Charles picked his spot and scored his first touchdown since his second ACL reconstruction.
A spectacular athlete and player, but also terrific at his sport’s subtleties.
Also, if you haven’t already, you should read Vahe’s terrific column on Jamaal’s offseason baptism.
Three good and three bad things after watching the Chiefs’ 26-10 win in Oakland again...
▪ Dee Ford making plays consistently, finally. His strip sack, drawing a hold, the pressure that helped force Derek Carr’s interception, almost every play he made was a direct result of effort. He’s on pace for 11 sacks this season, but this was the first time he was (somewhat) making an impact on plays that didn’t end with him tackling the quarterback.
▪ The play calling really was good. Andy Reid can still get too cute sometimes — and he did again in Oakland, though to an epic result — but he stuck with the run and kept most of the cuteness to pre-snap motion, which meant it didn’t get in the way of the action, and kept the Raiders guessing.
▪ As Charles gets stronger and more comfortable, there is a lot this offense can do that we haven’t seen yet this season. The Chiefs ran some nice misdirection to him out of the backfield, and lined him up at receiver a bit. He just gives them a lot more options.
▪ Clock management. The Chiefs essentially gifted Oakland two field goals with counterproductive prevent defense.
▪ The Raiders really were terrible. They were playing short-handed, both in the backfield and offensive line, but also made a lot of mistakes the Chiefs didn’t force. One drive ended when a hold that didn’t affect the play and then a fumbled snap that made it second and 23.
▪ Phil Gaines and Tamba Hali. The former’s injury means a thin secondary has to play the struggling D.J. White, and the latter’s recovery is clearly hindering him from being more effective.
Some good, some bad, but worth mentioning:
▪ The Chiefs’ biggest problem on the Raiders’ opening touchdown drive was generating virtually no pressure on Carr. Dee Ford had a quick read and nice coverage on the tight end in the end zone, though.
▪ Carr’s interception was the classic combination of the defense forcing its will and the offense making a mistake. Ford broke inside on his rush, enough to shrink the pocket and force Carr to his right. But Jaye Howard was coming around from the edge, and was close enough with his hands in the air that Carr panicked and threw off his back foot.
This is what Carr does. Michael Crabtree was breaking open down the right sideline, but Carr has to know himself. If he can get enough on it, it’s a touchdown. But if he can’t, he has to eat it. He did neither, the ball hung in the air, and Marcus Peters had an interception in his hometown.
▪ Alex Smith completed 19 of 22 passes, and a lot of them were easy, but he made some terrific throws, too. The third-down conversion to De’Anthony Thomas was a really nice throw, across the field, perfectly timed with DAT’s break, and in a spot where it would be impossible to intercept.
But his best throw was the deep ball to Jeremy Maclin.
On the Maclin play, he’s at the 40 when Smith throws it, with good coverage. Smith throws it to the other 39, so 21 yards down, and perfectly placed and timed. Here is the moment Smith throws the ball ...
... Maclin is at the Chiefs’ 40, and David Amerson — a good cornerback — was step-for-step. But this is one of those “trust throws” we sometimes talk about, the ones Smith seems to only throw to Maclin, with occasional exceptions.
And now, the moment of the catch:
Now he’s at the Raiders’ 39. That’s 21 yards in the air for him to run, to catch a ball Smith throws 40 yards or so in the air without the receiver having really beaten his man. A 38-yard gain. Terrific play.
▪ The gifted field goal at the end of the half was particularly frustrating. There is just no reason to play as far bad as the Chiefs did, and watching live, Blair Kerkhoff made a good point that after the Raiders’ receiver slid to the ground, Eric Berry made a mistake by “tackling” him with a touch. The receiver was on the ground, so he wasn’t going anywhere, but “tackling” him stopped the play, and allowed the Raiders to spike it with one second left.
▪ Chris Jones is a beast. Here he is, lined up for what would turn out to be a basic run play ...
... and here he is, maybe one second later, already a step behind the man trying to block him, nearly close enough to Carr to take the handoff:
▪ Charles’ 17-yard gain is the best example of what I meant by the effective pre-snap motion. Here’s the original set, with Charles deep and Demetrius Harris at fullback ...
... and here’s the first bit of motion, with Chris Conley eventually lining up on the other side of the line ...
... OK, now Harris comes up to the line of scrimmage, set just behind Zach Fulton, who is tackle-eligible here ...
... and now Anthony Sherman comes up to be the new fullback ...
... so, really, the Chiefs haven’t changed their personnel all that much from the pre-snap look. Harris replaces Conley as the receiver on the right side, and Sherman replaces Harris as the fullback. But if you go back and look at those pictures, notice the Raiders. Watching the video, I think two players did not move from their original spot. They were running in circles, clearly confused, and it helped lead to this:
Charles had at least 10 yards before a defender had a chance on him, and ended up getting 17 with a nice cutback.
▪ The offensive line was really good, too. Maybe the most effective block was Eric Fisher, getting out in space to wipe out Sean Smith and seal the left side, allowing Spencer Ware to go 45 yards down the sideline:
▪ And now, the two most talked about plays from the game. First, Derrick Johnson wiping out Jalen Richard, who had a good sense of humor about it. A lot of times with hits like that, the quarterback should be blamed for putting the guy in harm’s way. But look at this, DJ is probably eight yards away from Richard when Carr throws a 5-yard pass:
▪ And you knew I couldn’t get out of here without talking again about the amazing Hungry Pig Right.
It really is incredible. The motion sent Sherman from H-back to receiver, Fulton from tight end to receiver, Harris joining them from the left side, and Dontari Poe lining up as a fourth receiver behind them.
On the left side, Jamaal Charles goes from tailback to receiver, and is lined up across from a linebacker, giving Alex Smith an option if he doesn’t like what he sees with all those bodies on the right.
Here’s what it ends up looking like:
The only chance the Raiders have here is if safety Reggie Nelson can get around Sherman quick enough for a shot at Poe, but he didn’t have enough time or pounds to bring the big man down.
What an awesome and unnecessary thing.