Running game propels Chiefs into top spot in AFC West

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Chiefs running back Jackie Battle scores a touchdown over Jaguars linebacker Kirk Morrison and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton during the second half of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium.

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Rumbling through a huge hole on the right side, Thomas Jones burst into the clear and ran 70 yards before a Jacksonville defensive back knocked him out of bounds on the 4-yard line.

In the next couple of minutes, Jones came out, Jamaal Charles went in and quickly scored Kansas City’s first touchdown. The Chiefs (4-2) were on their way to a second straight 200-yard rushing day and a 42-20 victory.

When Charles came off the field, guess who was among the first to hug and congratulate him? None other than Jones, the guy who did almost all the heavy lifting for that go-ahead score.

Most people assumed the two would be competitors when the Chiefs brought Jones over from the New York Jets and paired him with Charles, who was coming off a 1,000-yard season. Most people were wrong.

The savvy, shaven-headed veteran has become a close friend and valued mentor of the younger, faster teammate with the snappy dreadlocks. It’s one reason the Chiefs lead the NFL in rushing and remain comfortably atop the AFC West.

“Most people who aren’t in that situation don’t understand the whole team aspect,” Jones said. “For most of the media, it’s a good way to sell papers — competition, controversy. This guy vs. that guy. It’s a good story but at the end of the day, we’re teammates. We’re here to help the Kansas City Chiefs win. All the hard work and all the plays we make aren’t for him individually or for myself individually. It’s for the team. We have that kind of mentality.”

Their 236 yards against the Jaguars was a season high for the Chiefs. Their 464 yards rushing the past two games marks the first time in almost four years the Chiefs posted back-to-back 200-yard efforts.

Just six games into the season, the Jones-Charles tandem has helped KC put up three 200-yard rushing days, something they haven’t done in six seasons.

Altogether, the Chiefs rolled up 426 yards against the Jaguars. Matt Cassel was an efficient and mistake-free 13-for-18 for 193 yards and two touchdowns, both to Dwayne Bowe who had two TD catches for the second week in a row.

With his old boss Charlie Weis running the offense as its new coordinator, hard-toplease head coach Todd Haley is finding it harder and harder to find fault.

“Offense is an 11-man operation, running and passing,” Haley said. “I thought we were pretty efficient as an offense. We didn’t turn the ball over. Our receivers blocked as well as I’ve seen the group block. Our runners worked hard, protected the football and made plays. I would never do anything, but feel real good when you’re able to run the all 5 yards a clip.”

Facing the winless Buffalo Bills this week at home, the Chiefs do not figure to change what’s working — running the ball, controlling the clock, throwing timely, conservative passes.

“This is the kind of team we set out to become, a team that could run the ball,” left guard Brian Waters said. “We clearly feel like that’s our strength and something we have to do to be successful. We think we’ve got a good enough group to put up good numbers every week if guys execute and do what they’re supposed to do.”

Another goal the Chiefs set, winning the AFC West, also appears to be in good shape. Nearest them is Oakland (3-4) while San Diego and Denver are both struggling along at 2-5.

“It’s still really early in the season,” Jones said. “We’ve only played six games. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re just trying to build off some of the things we’ve done positively. We have a lot to improve on. Whether you win or lose, you have to forget about it and move to the next week. Guys are already watching Buffalo film and getting a game plan together.”

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