MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- In the absence of the injured Jamaal Charles, the Kansas City Chiefs knew they would have to operate their offense smartly Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. They have no one else with the all-around abilities of Charles, so they would have to spread the ball around and hope quantity could make up for quality.
The Chiefs did that in their 34-15 victory at Sun Life Stadium. Seven receivers caught at least one pass and Knile Davis rushed for 132 yards.
But the best idea the Chiefs had was to get a little-used running back by the name of Joe McKnight involved. McKnight, playing mostly in passing situations, led the Chiefs in receptions (six), receiving yards (64) and touchdowns (two).
“He gives you a lot of options when he’s back there," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “You got to see that today. That’s why we kept him."
The Chiefs kept McKnight as a fifth running back despite having Charles, who by himself figured to consume a huge portion of the playing time. The decision looks brilliant now. McKnight certainly didn’t win the game by himself, but it’s likely the Chiefs wouldn’t have defeated the Dolphins without him.
McKnight’s first touchdown, an 11-yard catch-and-run, came in the third quarter after the Dolphins had gotten to within four points of the Chiefs. His second score, on a 4-yard reception, came in the fourth quarter and extended a six-point Chiefs lead into a 12-point advantage.
Suddenly the Chiefs have some offensive possibilities even without Charles. Maybe the best thing about his injury is they now know they can survive or even thrive without him.
The running back spot was a two-headed monster for the Chiefs. Davis pounded away with 32 carries, though he also fumbled twice (one lost) and will have to correct that before the Chiefs can truly trust him.
Then there’s McKnight, who proved his worth as a receiver against the Dolphins. The Chiefs will soon also have Charles and De'Anthony Thomas, a rookie whose world-class speed needs to be put to good use.
“We’ve got a good group," quarterback Alex Smith said. “I think there’s a reason we kept so many of them. I think you can see that now. They all have something to offer."
Sorting through the options at running back will be a pleasant problem for Reid. Where the Chiefs once relied to a ridiculous extent on Charles, they no longer have to do that.
“We have all these running backs," Reid said. “It’s hard to dress all of them.
“I do like the other guys too. I’d like to dress all of them every week. You can do that sometimes and you can’t other weeks."
The point is Reid now has flexibility. Davis at least knew he was going to be a big part of things against the Dolphins.
“We knew we’d give him the ball some," Reid said. “I didn’t put a number on it."
McKnight’s involvement was a revelation. He became a necessary component with Charles out of the lineup. One of Davis’ weaknesses, in addition to his fumbling habit, is as a receiver.
That’s McKnight’s strength.
“We’re just trying to keep things rolling while Jamaal is out," McKnight said.
Their mission was successful in their first try without Charles.