KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Simple math says the Kansas City Chiefs misused Jamaal Charles in a 23-20 overtime loss to Oakland on Sunday that cost them an opportunity to seize control of the AFC West.
The fleet Charles, the Chiefs’ only home run threat, carried 10 times for 53 yards. That’s a 5.3-yard average. His counterpart, Thomas Jones, picked up 32 yards on 19 carries. That’s a 1.7-yard average.
So why not give Charles the ball a few more times? Don’t the statistics say he stood a better chance than Jones of producing a big play in a very tight, very important division game?
“Obviously, off of statistics, he did,” Chiefs head coach Todd Haley conceded. “He had more yards per carry. But that being said, it is an 11-man effort.”
Declining to be specific, Haley said Charles had “physical issues” which, among other things, kept his carries down. Charles also had five catches for 47 yards.
“He had to come out of the game multiple times yesterday for different physical reasons,” Haley said. “That’s just the way of life for a running back. In addition, like I said, we have multiple audible calls that can go different ways and you don’t exactly know what the play is going to be, whether it will be run or pass, especially when you’re playing a team like Oakland that will show their hand. And you’re able to do some of that, change the play. Sometimes you’re not going to be able to control that.”
The Chiefs (5-3) would have taken a 2½-game lead over the Raiders (5-4) with a win, putting them in great position for a run at the AFC West title. But now, after losing a 10-0 lead and hurting themselves with penalties, turnovers, missed assignments and dropped passes, their lead is down to half a game.
In spite of the myriad of mistakes, the Chiefs’ most glaring deficiency was the way the Raiders stopped their running game. After rushing for more than 200 yards in each of their last three outings, the Chiefs produced only 112 yards on the ground, almost 80 yards under their league-leading average.
“There’s a lot of things that factor into it. On the (Charles) carry question, you have some plays that are passes that become runs that you don’t know for sure what’s going to happen,” Haley said. “It’s just one of those things you can’t entirely control other than just putting somebody in the game and leaving them in the game. And even that you can’t control because Jamaal’s been fighting through a couple of different issues.
“I’ve got to take my hat off to Jamaal. He’s shown a lot of toughness and fighting to get back on the field,” he added. “But there are times he has to come off. And that’s as much his decision as anybody else’s.”
Haley, who normally avoids saying much about opposing players, put much of the credit for slowing down KC’s running attack on Raiders’ defensive tackle Richard Seymour.
“Seymour, he really was a problem for us. He’s a great player,” Haley said. “That’s one of those things we need to learn from.”
Seymour was credited with eight tackles and two quarterback hurries.
“We can’t allow a top player to disrupt our game plan as much as he was able to do. It was throughout the game. It caused us problems.”
The Chiefs — just 1-3 away from home — are back on the road in the AFC West this week with a trip to Denver. Their last trip there, in the 2009 regular-season finale, produced one of their most rousing victories in two years, a 44-24 blowout which Haley has said many times helped send his young team into the offseason with a burst of much-needed trust that their hard work was paying off.