KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles quietly dressed at his locker, fully aware a throng of media waited behind him following Thursday night’s game.
Charles had moments of greatness, including rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
But he knew the reporters weren’t there to address that production against the Denver Broncos.
Charles lost a fumble with 35 seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied 24-24. Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby scooped up the loose ball at the Chiefs’ 21-yard line and scored the game-winning touchdown.
And instead of ducking reporters, Charles turned around, looked everyone in the eye and took full responsibility.
“I caused us the loss today,” Charles said. “I tried to put the team on my back and I ended up losing the game. It’s all on me tonight.”
Charles said he was trying to make play, but wasn’t careful in protecting the football by putting two hands on the ball before Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall knocked the ball loose.
Still, conventional wisdom with less than a minute to play may have pointed to the Chiefs sitting on the ball and take it to overtime.
Even Roby appeared surprised the Chiefs were still running a full offense.
“You don’t expect plays like that to happen,” Roby told reporters in the Denver locker room, “but you’ve got to keep faith, until the end. We did that and got the win.”
But coach Andy Reid wanted to take advantage of one of the NFL’s top runners with a view to potentially get in field goal range.
“What we were going to try to do was bust one,” Reid said. “We were in the 30s there. So we were going to try to bust one and if we could get within a field goal shot, you know you get to the minus 40, or plus 40, you have an opportunity for maybe a shot there. The way he was running, he was running great and I thought that was a good play. Didn’t work out so good.”
The Chiefs as a team had five turnovers, with quarterback Alex Smith throwing two interceptions and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas losing a fumble.
Charles, however, had a game to forget.
In addition to the game-changing turnover, he lost a fumble on the Chiefs’ opening possession with the Chiefs facing a third-and-goal inside the 5-yard line.
“I was trying to make a play again,” he said. “I have to be careful. I had the ball in the wrong arm, the guy made a good play. They make plays, too. They get paid to make plays. I (wasn’t) careful with the ball, that’s my fault.”
NFL players often talk about having a short memory, especially during the early part of the season.
The Chiefs are 1-1 and will face the Broncos again in Week 10, but the pain of Thursday night’s 31-24 loss may linger.
“I just don’t feel good right now,” Charles said. “It’s one of the hardest feelings right now that I’ve felt in a long time.”