Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, left, runs from Indianapolis Colts free safety Antoine Bethea during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)The Associated Press
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Indianapolis Colts defensive end Clifton Geathers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. The Colts recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jamaal Charles seemed to be happy with himself. Peyton Hillis had to feel vindicated, and embattled offensive coordinator Brian Daboll finally had a reason to smile.
Imagine how they would have felt if the Chiefs had actually won.
Even while playing out the string in a season lost long ago, Kansas City managed an offensive output that should go down in franchise history. Charles ran for 226 yards on Sunday, Hillis had 101 and the Chiefs piled up 352 yards on the ground against the Colts' backpedaling defense.
If not for a miserable effort by quarterback Brady Quinn, two turnovers in the red zone and a stuffed attempt at converting fourth down, the Chiefs might have won another game.
Instead, the Colts scored late in the fourth quarter for a 20-13 victory.
"We had a feeling we could run on them," Charles said. "When Peyton did a good job running the first half, I thought, 'Man, Peyton's getting off. I got to do some, too.' So I felt like I had to go out there and run the ball as well."
The Chiefs certainly ran the ball well.
Their total was the third-best in franchise history, trailing only a couple of games in the 1960s, when teams generally ran the ball with more gusto than they do these days.
Not a bad day to put in the history books, except that it came with an asterisk: It's the most yards rushing in a losing effort in NFL history, eclipsing the 320 yards the 1944 edition of the Cleveland Rams ran for in a loss to Washington.
"We wanted to be able to run the ball and it turned out we were able to run it," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said, who gave his players Monday off to celebrate the holidays.
We're disappointed," he added, "as we have been many times this year."
Thirteen times, to be exact. The Chiefs (2-13) and are tied with Jacksonville for the league's worst record heading into their season finale next Sunday against Denver. Kansas City also holds the tiebreaker for the No. 1 draft pick by virtue of their strength of schedule.
That's one positive to come out of a disastrous season.
Another one has been Charles.
After missing nearly all of last season with a torn left ACL, the former All-Pro running back has been better than ever. He's run for 1,456 yards, the seventh-best season in franchise history, and can break his own single-season-high set in 2010 with 12 yards against the Broncos.
His big game against the Colts, in which Charles surpassed 750 career carries, also qualifies him for the NFL record for yards per carry. Charles is averaging 5.82 yards on 770 attempts, which far surpasses the 5.22 yards that Jim Brown averaged in 2,359 attempts from 1957-65.
"Records are meant to be broken, and I always try to break records," Charles said. "Breaking Jim Brown's record, it's one of the most special of all time to me because, listening from the past, he was one of the best running backs of all time."
Charles has gone over 200 yards rushing twice this season, and three times in his career, which also sets a franchise record. He also has the three biggest games in Chiefs history, and his 84-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave him three 80-plus runs this season.
"He's super-fast, he's tough. He's a scary sight for a defensive guy," Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "He opens up a lot of things for the offense. He's a key player."
Some of Charles' running room was no doubt thank to Hillis, the former Browns bruiser who has been a disappointment since signing as a free agent in the offseason.
He bullied his way for 101 yards on Sunday, his best game since Dec. 24, 2011.
The thunder-and-lightning combination gave the Chiefs their first duo of 100-yard rushers since Oct. 7, 1991, when Christian Okoye and Harvey Williams did it against Buffalo. It's a feat that has only been accomplished six times in the 53-year history of the Chiefs.
"You can't go back and say, 'We should have run the ball more,'" Charles said. "Losing by seven points, it didn't have nothing to do with us running the ball."
It had to do with Quinn's inefficient game, poor execution in clutch situations and a defense that had played well all afternoon failing to get off the field late in the fourth quarter.
It also had to with Daboll's offense, which has been historically inept, failing to get into the end zone despite one of the most productive ground games in franchise history.
"We turned the ball over, got penalties at inopportune times and gave up an easy touchdown at the end of the game, as well as miss a field goal," Crennel said. "So when those kinds of things happen, it's hard, and until we can rectify that, that's what we have to deal with."
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