After Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints raced out to a 24-6 lead early in the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, it looked as if the Chiefs would suffer their third straight double-digit loss to start the season, and head coach Romeo Crennel would already be on the hot seat. A kick return to the 9 yard line on the ensuing kickoff made things even worse, and the Saints were in a great position to put the game away. Running back Jamaal Charles took a stretch handoff to the left on first down and galloped 91 yards for a touchdown, sparking a furious comeback that led to a 27-24 overtime win and possibly saved the Chiefs season.
Charles finished the game with 33 carries for 233 yards and a touchdown in addition to 6 catches for 55 yards. With the injury to Peyton Hillis and the continuing inconsistent play of quarterback Matt Cassel, his big day was especially timely. This looked like the Charles who ran for 1,467 yards and set a record for yards per carry with at least 200 rushing attempts in 2010 and then some. Coming off of the worst game of his career, in which he rushed 6 times for just 3 yards against the Buffalo Bills, Charles’s performance against the Saints should help to cement his return to the upper echelon of National Football League running backs after a torn ACL kept him off the field for most of the 2011 season.
Charles is leading the NFL in rushing yards after 3 weeks with 323 and trails only C.J. Spiller, Robert Griffin III, and Reggie Bush in yards per carry for players with at least 30 attempts. Upcoming matchups against a 4th ranked San Diego Chargers rushing defense and the notoriously stingy Baltimore Ravens will test the 5th year back, and the Chiefs offense will only go as far as Charles takes them.