KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — All those critics who’ve been carping about the way Todd Haley uses his running backs have all of a sudden fallen silent.
It’s hard to argue with No. 1.
With quick-hitting Jamaal Charles piling up 418 yards on 66 carries and muscular veteran Thomas Jones adding 336 more on 79 attempts, the Chiefs go into their game against Jacksonville on Sunday with the most productive run game in the NFL.
The first few weeks of the season, the older, slower Jones was getting more carries than Charles, whose breakaway speed makes him a threat to score on every touch. Fans like him, of course.
Now even Charles agrees the coaches knew what they’re doing.
“There’s no complaints. There’s no worries,” Charles said. “It’s about the team. I’m all about the team. Me and Thomas, we’re all in. Winning games is all that matters right now. We go out there and set our goals and try to be the best backs in the league.”
The Chiefs’ average of 164.6 yards rushing per game could come in handy this week against a Jacksonville rush defense that’s tied for 19th, giving up 111 per game.
“It’s really about who’s in the offense,” Charles said. “I can’t worry about how they use me. I’ve just got to go out there and make plays for my team. We’re just trying to make plays. Hey, we’re No. 1 in rushing right now. We’re just trying to keep that going.”
The biggest worry for the Jaguars (3-3) was probably not stopping KC’s running game, it was identifying a quarterback.
In Monday night’s 30-3 spanking by Tennessee, the Jags lost starter David Garrard to a concussion and backup Trent Edwards to a right thumb injury. On Wednesday, they signed two guys off the street, Patrick Ramsey, who was released by New Orleans in final roster cuts this season, and veteran Todd Bouman. Jacksonville signed Bouman last month and kept him for two weeks before he was released on Oct. 5.
It’s reminiscent of the quarterback carousel the Chiefs rode in 2008 during a 2-14 debacle that led to the firing of both the head coach and general manager.
Such uncertainty affects practice, game-planning and team morale. It presents a situation, coach Jack Del Rio agreed, that is “less than ideal.”
Even if Garrard were back in time for Sunday, the missed practice time could be a problem.
“It certainly presents some challenges,” said Del Rio. “We have enough challenges already with the opponent we’re playing, but again we’ll have a contingency plan in case he’s (Garrard) not able to go. We’ll have a plan in case he is able to go and we’ll just need to be ready to adjust.”
The two teams are coming off meltdowns.
Jacksonville’s 30-3 loss at home to Tennessee included four turnovers, two of them inside Tennessee’s 20-yard line.
“We were executing, we just weren’t scoring points,” said running back Maurice Jones-Drew. “We got into the red zone three times and we don’t score. That’s what we have to work on.”
The Chiefs are still atop the AFC West at 3-2, but they’ve dropped their last two games — including last week’s fourth-quarter collapse that enabled Houston to score TDs in its last four possessions and eke out a 35-31 victory.
The Chiefs, after holding their first four opponents under 20 points, let their finest day of offense go to waste. A week before, the defense also wilted in the final minutes at Indianapolis and allowed the Colts to score the winning TD.
“It shows us that we’re not quite where we need to be,” said linebacker Andy Studebaker. “We played a good team the last two weeks and we’ve played them well. Had them both down to the wire. But we’re getting better every single day. That’s the message this team is getting. That loss is not going to define our season.”