KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s late in the second half, a game still in doubt, signaling it’s Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles’ time to shine.
The opposing defense knows he’s coming, but the question remains can Charles be stopped.
Through the past three weeks against the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, the answer is a resounding no.
While defenses have contained the two-time Pro Bowl running back in the first three quarters during that span, holding him to 52 yards rushing on 27 carries, they’ve failed when it matters the most.
Charles has saved his best for the fourth quarter in Weeks Two to Four where he’s totaled 160 yards on 27 carries, including a rushing and receiving touchdown.
The undefeated Chiefs have a closer and quarterback Alex Smith said he’s enjoying the opportunity to watch his backfield teammate perform that role.
“He’s extremely talented and he just continues to get better and better as the game goes on,” Smith said. “The fourth quarter has really been his time the last few weeks. It’s been fun to watch. He’s a great player and he’s playing really well right now.”
Charles didn’t practice Wednesday as he recovers from blisters on both feet suffered during Week Four’s 31-7 win against the Giants. However, the AFC’s leader in yards from scrimmage (502) is a player coach Andy Reid knows can handle the load when he’s on the field.
“He wants the ball, which you appreciate,” Reid said during his Monday media session. “I really appreciated it after I saw his feet and the blisters on them. His feet were just a mess. The kid is a tough kid. He likes to play and you appreciate that.”
Propelled by Charles, the Chiefs lead the league with seven clock-killing drives, defined as “drives that begin with five minutes of time to play or less in the fourth quarter and with the driving team winning.”
Three of the Chiefs’ clock-killing drives ended the game and two resulted in scores.
Offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz said it’s a luxury on offense knowing there’s a running back with an ability to take over a game.
Schwartz would know, having blocked for Carolina Panthers rushers DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in 2009 when both reached 1,000 yards rushing. Schwartz also played with Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2012.
And like Smith, Schwartz appreciates watching Charles perform as well as blocking for him.
“It’s exciting when you’re blocking your guy and you hear the crowd start roaring because Jamaal has broken loose,” Schwartz said. “It’s a great feeling to see the defense kind of deflate a little bit when we bust a long run.”
Safety Husain Abdullah, who also played with Peterson in Minnesota, agreed with Schwartz’s point surrounding the adverse effects on an opposing defense after a heavy dose of Charles in the fourth quarter.
“It’s great for the team, it’s great for our defense when the offense is staying on the field and it’s demoralizing to the other team,” Abdullah said. “Their offense can’t get back on the field and they know they got to stop this guy and they can’t, they’re doing everything they can and they can’t.”
Abdullah added he and some of his defensive teammates become fans on the sidelines when they know Charles is set to carry the load.
“He does things that still makes all of us say, ‘Wow!’’” Abdullah said. “He makes all of us get off the bench. Typically you’re resting, but you get off the bench because you want to see what he’s going to do next. It’s definitely a blessing to play with somebody like that.”
In the meantime, imposing will on an opponent by ramming the ball down their throats even when they know a running play is coming requires a killer instinct, a trait that suits the Chiefs ground attack well through four games.
“It’s who we want to be as a team,” Schwartz said. “We want to be the enforcers; we want to be able to run the ball when we need to.”
The Chiefs currently rank 13th in the league with 120.8 net rushing yards per game.
And when it’s time to for a clock-killing drive, expect Charles to answer the call.
“Just having a running back like Jamaal, a guy that can do all he does on first, second and third down,” Smith said. “But then you get into those fourth quarter games and you get a guy who can run the ball like he does, it’s been special to watch.”