Chiefs vs. Saints: Jamaal Charles Saves Kansas City's Season in 27-24 Win

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystSeptember 23, 2012

September 23, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) stiff arms New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas (52) on a run during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The Kansas City Chiefs were not supposed to win against the New Orleans Saints on the road, but Jamaal Charles exploded for 288 total yards and a touchdown and Ryan Succop had six field goals to complete the upset.

A 91-yard touchdown run by Charles late in the third quarter woke up a Kansas City defense that did not allow Drew Brees to score again and sacked him in the end zone for a safety.

After 11 quarters of poor team football from the Chiefs, they finally played like the team many believed they would be heading into the season. Kansas City played great defense and used the ground game to set up the pass. Matt Cassel didn’t have to force throws, and he kept the offense moving.

The Chiefs will now try to carry over this performance into next week against the division rival San Diego Chargers at home.

The explosive day by Charles should silence any concerns about his health; he averaged 7.1 yards per carry on the day.

Charles was rested late in the blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 2 with knee soreness, which had everyone wondering if he was playing at less than 100 percent. Charles sustained an ACL injury last season, and it usually takes players a while to regain confidence in their abilities.

Starting with Charles’ long touchdown run, the Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points. Dwayne Bowe added 79 yards receiving, and Cassel shook off an early interception to complete 59 percent of his passes for 248 yards.

The Chiefs are a different team when the defense is keeping the game close and the running game is working. Cassel needs a close game, solid defense and a healthy Charles so he can play conservatively and avoid turnovers.

The game plan nearly every week for the Chiefs should be to ride Charles to the red zone and try to get the ball to Bowe and the tight ends for touchdowns. Of course, getting big plays from Charles and having Succop get sure points is also a recipe that works, which is exactly what happened against the Saints.

The only negatives to come out of the game were the sluggish start and the fact that so many drives stalled against a poor defense; the only touchdown the team scored on the day was on the long run by Charles. If the Chiefs are going to keep it going against better defenses, they will have to start punching the ball into the end zone.

Some of the stalled drives can be attributed to conservative coaching and play-calling. If Cassel can’t be trusted to throw the ball into coverage, the Chiefs might struggle to replicate their success against better defenses.

As much as Charles carried the team against the Saints, the Chiefs are a team that has to perform together to win games. On Sunday, they won as a team.

The Chiefs are now 1-2 and can move back to .500 and keep the AFC West race close with a victory over the Chargers next Sunday. If Cassel can avoid turnovers and find ways to convert more explosive days by Charles into touchdowns, and the defense plays like it did late in the game against the Saints, the Chiefs will be a very hard team to beat.