KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive production didn’t falter without Jamaal Charles.
Instead, it flourished with Spencer Ware.
The big running back’s coming-out party hit full stride Sunday when he had 11 carries for 70 yards and scored the tying touchdown against San Diego with little over a minute left in regulation. He also had seven catches for 129 yards, including one in overtime that helped the Chiefs to their 33-27 win.
“I don’t think anybody is surprised at all,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “The guy’s an extremely talented player. I think he’s confident in his ability, especially in the pass game today.”
The Chiefs were hopeful Charles would be ready after surgery last season to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. But despite returning to practice several weeks ago, the four-time Pro Bowl selection was inactive for the season opener, which meant Ware and Charcandrick West had to shoulder the load.
Or rather, Ware had to shoulder it. West only carried three times and lost a yard.
But Ware’s performance in the passing game might have been the biggest takeaway, and the biggest source of optimism for Kansas City going forward. Chiefs coach Andy Reid loves to utilize the running back as a receiver, and it’s something Charles does well.
As for Ware? He had six catches for 5 yards his first two seasons in the league.
Ware gave credit to the chemistry he’s established with Smith, who in turn had no problem targeting his running back deep down the middle of the field when things broke down around him.
“I have the utmost respect for Alex,” Ware said. “I took the time this offseason to make a connection with him, my offense, the coaching staff and things like that. Playing quarterback and having control is just amazing. We have the right guy at the position. I’m just glad to have him.”
When the Chiefs’ offense was stagnant early in the fourth quarter, and the Chargers were holding a comfortable 27-10 lead, it was Ware who injected some life into his struggling team.
He had four catches for 41 yards in the fourth quarter alone, and his 5-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left in regulation helped Kansas City complete the biggest comeback in franchise history.
“The guy’s such a spark for us, just even through his play,” Smith said. “The energy he brings to his play, the way he runs, he does it all — on the sidelines as well. He’s always positive, always trying to be involved, seeing what he can do, and today, he lit a little fire under us.”
Ware had just 75 carries for 413 yards his first two seasons in the league, and most of that came when Charles went down in Week 5 last season. But his play Sunday may have been an indication he is going nowhere, even if the Chiefs’ biggest star gets back on the field next week.
“He brings a lot of energy and he’s an emotional player,” Reid said, “and he has a knack for making plays when you need him. He did that today.”