RB Charcandrick West comes front and center in Chiefs offense
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perhaps Charcandrick West could use a geography lesson.
The second-year running back had no trouble finding the end zone for the first time Sunday, helping the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But when West was asked how far that sacred bit of turf was from tiny Abilene Christian, the youngster could only smile.
"Man, a thousand miles," West replied. "A thousand."
Feels like it, sure. Even though the real answer is about 640 miles.
"I dreamed of this when I was 4, 5 years old. To be here talking now is crazy," West said in front of his locker, still wearing sweaty, grass-stained pads. "It’s a surreal feeling."
When the Chiefs lost Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles to a season-ending knee injury a couple of weeks ago, the assumption was they’d get by with a committee approach in the backfield. But then West churned out 110 yards to help them snap a five-game skid.
Suddenly, the Chiefs had a new feature back to carry the offense.
"We’ve known what he can do. It was just a matter of getting enough opportunities," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "I mentioned after last game that he needed a few more opportunities. He got those today. You saw what he did with it."
Along with 22 carries, West hauled in a couple of passes. He was solid in blitz protection.
He proved he can do many of the same things Charles did in the Kansas City offense.
"We had a lot of young guys in the huddle. Hats off to those guys," Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. "They got opportunities, stepped up and made the most of them, especially Charcandrick. Taking his lumps and then to play the way he did, four quarters, was really, really nice."
Those lumps came after his first start a week ago in Minnesota. West ran for 33 yards, which was forgettable at best. But the day became memorable for the wrong reasons when he fumbled with 4:38 left and the Chiefs trailing 16-10, foiling their comeback attempt.
But considering where West came from, bouncing back from that disappointment was nothing.
West originally committed to Louisiana Tech, where he was going to play cornerback, but transferred to Abilene Christian and switched to running back. He wound up running for more than 2,000 yards for the Division II school, but he hardly had the kind of career that causes a player from such a small school to show up on NFL draft radars.
The Chiefs took a chance on him as an undrafted free agent, though. Then they signed him to their practice squad, where he spent last season running the opponent’s plays.
West eventually earned a job on the 53-man roster out of training camp, primarily because of his ability to play special teams. But when Charles got hurt in the third quarter of a game against Denver, it pried open an opportunity for West to make his mark.
He did it in a game that the Chiefs desperately needed to win. They had lost five straight and their postseason chances had virtually vanished. But now, after beating the Steelers on Sunday, the Chiefs head to London to face Detroit with at least a glimmer of hope.
"Our backs were against the wall. We had to show what we had," West said. "We prepared great, we had three great practices. We came out. We were focused. And we got the job done."
Notes: WR Jeremy Maclin was being evaluated again Monday. Maclin passed the NFL’s concussion protocol after getting hurt last week, but the Chiefs’ training staff decided to hold him out of Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh. Reid was optimistic Maclin will be able to play in London.