KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the current offensive trends in the National Football League, a 100-yard game by a running back does not happen as often as it did 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
There are a handful of reasons the 110-yard performance Charcandrick West had for the Chiefs in the victory over Pittsburgh in Week 7 was so special.
West had to overcome plenty to even be in position to have a big running day. He was running in a league that doesn’t like to run so much, and he was doing it without an NFL pedigree, entering pro football as an undrafted rookie that had to battle his way off the practice squad for a chance to achieve his dream.
It all combined to make the diminutive product (5-10, 205 pounds) of Abilene Christian University the NFL weekend’s most unexpected performance.
“He worked his tail off last year,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of West, who spent nine games last year on the practice squad before he was promoted to the 53-man roster. “You could see his talent, we could see it during camp when he first got here, and then he’s just learned some of the finer points of the National Football League. He took advantage of an opportunity and did a nice job with it.”
The stars were still swirling for West after the game, but he left little doubt that he knew how to handle his first great NFL moment.
“With how the offensive line was blocking today, anybody could have gotten back there and ran,” West said. “I’m just thankful to be here.”
He should be, because West’s 110-yard game was notable for several reasons.
In an era where throwing the ball is the preferred method of offense, an already difficult job of hitting the 100-mark is made even tougher.
In the first seven weeks of the 2015 season, there have been 48 games by 30 running backs where they reached the century mark. In comparison, there have been 87 games where a receiver has passed 100 yards and 54 games where a quarterback has thrown for more than 300 yards
There are other reasons that West’s day was so special:
• He’s one of three backs in that group of 30 that was not drafted by an NFL team. The others are Seattle’s Thomas Rawls and Chris Ivory of the New York Jets.
• Only West and Baltimore’s Justin Forsett among those 30 backs spent time on an NFL practice squad.
• In the last three years — the 2013, 2014 seasons and seven weeks of the 2015 schedule — there have only been six backs to hit the 100-yard mark that were not drafted and had time on an NFL practice squad: West, Marcel Reece of Oakland, Matt Asiata in Minnesota, Houston’s Arian Foster, Arizona’s Kerwynn Williams and Jonas Gray who was with New England at the time of his 100-plus game.
• West became the eighth Chiefs running back to hit 100-plus yards after entering the league as an undrafted free agent. The others were Priest Holmes (24 times), Mack Lee Hill (2), Kimble Anders (2), Jackie Battle (1), Wendell Hayes (1), Arnold Morgado (1) and Tony Richardson (1).
There was little doubt about the respect West had in the Chiefs locker room before the Pittsburgh game. His performance was just an affirmation of what he can deliver to the offense despite not having a gold-plated entrance into the league.
“To play the way he did for four quarters was really, really nice,” said quarterback Alex Smith. “(He) got opportunities, stepped up and made the most of them.”
West was most impressive in the fourth quarter. Making his first NFL start, West saw plenty of snaps before the teams rolled into the final period.
Then, with the Chiefs needing production to run the clock and protect their lead, West cracked off a 36-yard run and finished the quarter with 53 yards on seven carries.
“It’s a confidence builder,” Reid said of the effect the performance against Pittsburgh can have on West. “It’s also a confidence builder for those guys around him that are working hard. To know that you’ve got guys that can make plays around you, I think adds up in a lot of different ways.”
All of the factors in the West story make for a memorable performance. Now, he must show it wasn’t a fluke.
The Chiefs are in London where they will play the Detroit Lions on Sunday. For them to return across the pond with a victory is going to require top-shelf production from their new featured back. West will need more remarkable performances like the one he showed in Week 7.
“This business isn’t what you did yesterday, it’s what can you do today?” Reid said. “His body feels a little bit different than it did previous weeks because of the work he had. How are you going to handle that? It’s something he needs to handle each day.”