Chiefs still churning out yards without Jamaal Charles

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Nobody will ever confuse Spencer Ware or Charcandrick West for Jamaal Charles.

Ware is a former sixth-round pick who didn't play a game last season, and landed with the Kansas City Chiefs almost as an afterthought. West was an undrafted free agent out of tiny Abilene Christian who had carried the ball a handful of times before Charles was lost to a season-ending knee injury.

It turns out the two of them together have been just as productive.

Forming a quintessential thunder-and-lightning combination, Ware and West have combined with the scrambling of quarterback Alex Smith to make the Chiefs one of the most productive running teams in the entire NFL. They're averaging nearly 130 yards per game, fourth-best in the league, even without the franchise's career rushing leader taking handoffs.

''It's nice to have a chance of pace,'' Smith said. ''It's nice to have different guys to come in who have different strengths and different vision and give the defense a different look.''

Neither of the fill-ins had a carry when Kansas City beat Houston in their season opener, so the Texans will face a new challenge when the teams meet in their wild-card game Saturday.

Ware resembles a bowling ball, 230 pounds of muscle that will bruise and batter before going down. On one carry last week against Oakland, the former LSU star carried two defenders for extra yards even after brutalizing two other would-be tacklers.

West is more like a pingpong ball, a jitterbug with an uncanny ability to ricochet around without losing inertia. Whereas his counterpart runs people over, West leaves them grasping at air.

''I feel like everybody isn't playing for selfish stats or stuff like that. Everybody's playing for each other,'' West explained, ''and trying to accomplish that one big goal.''

While playing 15 games last season, Charles carried 206 times for 1,033 yards and nine TDs. So far this season, Ware and West have combined for 232 carries and 1,037 yards with 10 touchdowns.

Even this season, the Chiefs averaged less than 110 yards rushing in the four-plus games before Charles got hurt. In the 11 games since then, with West and Ware - and the scrambling of Smith - Kansas City is averaging nearly 136 per game, and has gone over 150 yards rushing five times.

There are extenuating circumstances, of course.

Those first six opponents included five that made the playoffs, while the final 11 were primarily teams that finished in the bottom half of their divisions. The Chiefs also played from ahead during the majority of those games, allowing them to control the clock by keeping the ball on the ground.

''That's again where the coaching comes in,'' Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. ''Coach (Andy) Reid has a tremendous amount of experience in this league and he's seen it all. He's able to adapt when he loses a player - the next guy can step up and he knows how to use that player.''

Ware and West have not only stepped up, though. They've exceeded expectations.

Ware had carried three times for 10 yards with the Seahawks two years ago, but wasn't active at all last year. This season, he's played in 11 games, running for 403 yards and a team-high six TDs.

West played six games on special teams last year, but didn't have a carry until this season. Now, he's started nine games, appeared in six more and run for 634 yards with four scores.

''We didn't create a bunch of new plays for Charcandrick or Spencer,'' offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. ''If anything we simplified, kind of streamlined, didn't use as many formations or motions or shifts off of those formations, and just kind of got the guys - especially those young backs - comfortable with what we were doing. ... It kind of got us back to where we are right now.''

Notes: LB Justin Houston (hyperextended knee) practiced Tuesday, though Reid refused to say with certainty that he'll be available Saturday. ... LB Tamba Hali (knee) did not practice, though that was planned. He is expected to play against Houston.

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