The Tampa Bay defense will face their biggest challenge so far this season on Sunday; do what has been impossible for five teams, stop Jamaal Charles.
The Bucs’ run defense is ranked fourth in the league in yards per game, holding opponents to just under 74 yards per contest. Kansas City is ranked second in the NFL with an average of 180.8 yards per game on the ground. A large part of that is Charles, who is averaging 110 yards rushing per game and has ran for 551 yards and two touchdowns already this season.
Charles is a complete running back who also has 14 catches for 118 yards and a score. Like the rest of the Chiefs, Charles has been susceptible to turnovers, with three fumbles, two lost, in the past two games.
The fifth year back out of Texas has blazing speed and can get outside quickly. Charles’ friend and former teammate in college, Roy Miller, said Charles has always been special.
“From the day he stepped on the field our first year we all watched and were like ‘My gosh, we have all of these running backs,’” Miller said, “It was our National Championship year and we had all these backs and we were like ‘We need to find a way to get him on the field,’ because he was doing amazing things early on. Like I said, I’ve known the guy a long time and I know the type of person he is, so it doesn’t surprise me he does what he does. He’s always had athleticism, but the hard work and dedication and all those things together make him a more complete back in this league.”
Stopping Charles may not be the only focus, but for the Bucs’ defense, it has to be a priority. With Matt Cassel out with a concussion, Brady Quinn will be stepping in, which may give Charles even more of the workload.
Miller, who has been very good against the run this season, broke down what makes Charles so dangerous and what the Bucs need to do to keep the damage to a minimum.
“If you watch him, he just has so much speed and agility.” Miller said. “He makes a guy miss and suddenly he’s taking the ball on the other side of the field and he’s getting 30, 40 yards off of people missing tackles and stuff like that. At the end of the day, we all have to do our job, we all have to be where we’re supposed to be at and then when we get there, we got to tackle. We have 11 guys and they have 11, but we need to use ours to our advantage and everybody needs to do their job.”
Bucs strongside linebacker Quincy Black also talked about Charles’ speed, pointing out the Chief’s running back is a former track star, and how forcing Kansas City into long third down situations where Quinn will have to throw the ball; something the six-year QB doesn’t done in a regular season game since 2009.
“I think he ran track in college.” Black said. “I think it’s one of those deal where he was really a track guy and it shows on film. He had a 91-yarder versus New Orleans – that dude, he still had his head down running through the line.
“Well you obviously have to do a good job on first and second downs, try to create some third and long situations where you kind of make them throw the ball and that’s definitely going to be tough with those guys up front. The offensive line is really, really good and they have really, really good running backs. So, it’s going to be tough.”
Bucs three-tech Gerald McCoy says that the Chiefs pound the ball hard and often and that Tampa Bay has a plan to slow the Kansas City running attack. However, it will all be up to the execution.
“That’s what they do, and that’s what they’re going to try.” McCoy said. “We think we have a plan for it – actually, we know we have a plan for it. We have to be on it. The slightest slip though and they can hit a homerun, they have those types of backs and those types of run plays. So we have to be on it.”