The Best Running Back Performances in Chiefs History

Austin J

In Part III of Game Balls, we explore the greatest running back performances in Chiefs' history. The Chiefs may not have enjoyed a succession of Hall of Fame talents at quarterback or wide receiver, but running back is a different story. From Christian Okoye to Marcus Allen to Priest Holmes to Larry Johnson to Jamaal Charles to Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs have boasted a long line of excellent running backs dating back more than three decades. Today, we look at the best of the best. 

ABNER HAYNES

November 26, 1961

Texans 43, Raiders 11

14 rush attempts, 158 yards rushing, 4 rushing touchdowns; 2 receptions, 84 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

The NFL has complete box scores for every NFL (and, prior to the merger in 1970, AFL) game dating back to 1950, which is how we know Abner Haynes - playing for Lamar Hunt’s Dallas Texans in the American Football League - made history in 1961. Haynes became the first player in the history of American pro football to score five total touchdowns while racking up over 200 yards from scrimmage. The feat was so incredible that it remains one of just eight such games since 1950 - and has only been done four times since 1965 (by Jerry Rice, Shaun Alexander, Clinton Portis, and another member of this list). Haynes is not likely to be remembered by Chiefs fans - he played just two seasons with the Chiefs after the Texans relocated to Kansas City in 1963, and didn’t star here like he had in his home state of Texas. But his record-setting day against the rival Raiders still stands out in the annals of franchise history.

PRIEST HOLMES

November 24, 2002

Seahawks 39, Chiefs 32

23 rush attempts, 197 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns; 7 receptions, 110 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

It’s rare to see these star performances come in Chiefs’ losses, but Priest Holmes’ greatest day as a Chief came in a microcosm of the Dick Vermeil era: a monstrous performance by the offense was wasted by an atrocious defense that allowed 534 total yards to Seattle. Still, Priest’s greatness cannot be denied. His 307 yards from scrimmage were second-most in franchise history, narrowly edged by Stephone Paige’s 309 yards in 1985. The gap between Holmes and third place, Jamaal Charles’ 288 at New Orleans in 2012, isn’t particularly close, either. Holmes is the only player in franchise history to find the end zone three or more times while gaining more than 300 yards from scrimmage (Paige, the only other player to exceed 300 scrimmage yards, somehow only scored twice). The one-time record holder for single-season touchdowns enjoyed a prolific run with the Chiefs in the early 2000s, and has as good a case for the Hall of Fame - nay, better - as current member Terrell Davis. But that's a discussion for another time.

JAMAAL CHARLES

January 3, 2010

Chiefs 44, Broncos 24

25 rush attempts, 259 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns; 1 reception, 3 yards receiving

The uncharacteristically low receiving yardage total cannot diminish Charles’ performance against the hated Broncos, for Charles’ 259 rushing yards are the highest single-game mark in Chiefs’ history. Charles, in fact, owns the top three marks (233 against New Orleans in 2012, which also made this list, and 226 against the Colts, also in 2012). His 259 yards are, in fact, the eighth-highest single-game total in NFL history, and Charles is one of just two players to meet or exceed that total on 25 or fewer carries (the other, Bengals’ halfback Corey Dillon, also accomplished the feat against the Broncos in 2000). With the game well in hand, Charles touched the ball just four times in the fourth quarter. On his last carry, coming with 6:36 left in the game, he broke a 56-yard touchdown run. Could Charles have had a chance at the record? He needed another 37 on the ground to tie Adrian Peterson’s 296, and the Chiefs got the ball just once more in the game, with 2:43 left on the clock. The way he was running that day, I wouldn’t have bet against him.

JAMAAL CHARLES

December 15, 2013

Chiefs 56, Raiders 31

8 rushing attempts, 20 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 8 receptions, 195 yards receiving, 4 receiving touchdowns

In the long history of the NFL - over 16,000 games played - only one player has caught four touchdowns in a single game while also rushing for a touchdown. Only one running back has caught four touchdowns in a single game. That player is Jamaal Charles, whose extraordinary performance against the Oakland Raiders on December 15, 2013, stands as one of the finest by any running back not just in Chiefs’ history, but in NFL history.

I mentioned that Charles is the only running back to ever catch four touchdowns in a single game. That’s even more impressive when you consider that only four running backs have ever caught even three touchdowns in a single game. Charles’ 195 yards receiving is the second-highest single-game total for a running back in NFL history - only Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, with 204 in 1999, has had more. In third place, a distant 36 yards behind Charles with 159, are Le’Veon Bell and Aaron Jones.

This unreal game earned Alex Smith an honorable mention in Part I - Smith had little more to do than check down to Charles and ended up with a perfect 158.3 passer rating as Charles turned short passes into long scores. It very nearly ended up in Part II - covering the greatest receiving performances in Chiefs’ history - because Charles had the seventh-most receiving yards in franchise history in this game. On top of that, he was one of just two players in Chiefs history to catch four touchdowns in a single game, the first since Frank Jackson in 1964. 

Honorable Mentions:

KAREEM HUNT

September 7, 2017

Chiefs 42, Patriots 27

17 rush attempts, 148 yards rushing, 1 rushing touchdown; 5 receptions, 98 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

Despite Hunt's ignominious end with the franchise, his NFL debut is not likely to ever be forgotten by any who witnessed it. His 246 yards from scrimmage are by far the most ever in a player's first NFL game: Anquan Boldin and Billy Sims, tied for second place, had just 217. He is one of just four players to score three touchdowns in his NFL debut (the others are Sims, Faulk, and Bobby Joe Conrad). The numbers themselves are impressive enough, but the fact that Hunt did it against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, on their home turf in Foxborough, as a third-round rookie originally slated for backup duty before starter Spencer Ware got hurt late in the preseason... like I said, it isn't likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

JAMAAL CHARLES

September 23, 2012

Chiefs 27, Saints 24

33 rush attempts, 233 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown; 6 receptions, 55 receiving yards

The 2012 season was a dark one for the Chiefs. This Week 3 win in New Orleans would be just one of two in the entire campaign. The other, on December 2, came one day after Javon Belcher’s murder-suicide. But when Jamaal Charles took the handoff at the KC 9-yard-line with 5:36 left in the third quarter, KC trailing 24-6, something magical happened. Longtime punter Dustin Colquitt recalled the moment in Charles’ retirement ceremony last May: "When he hit the corner in New Orleans, after they said he couldn’t do that anymore...” Colquitt trails off, but "that" - that was Jamaal Charles outrunning the entire Saints' defense for a 91-yard touchdown run, sparking the Chiefs to an overtime win, the brightest highlight of a very difficult year. 

Stay tuned for Part IV, the Greatest Defensive Performances in Chiefs History.

Click here for Part I: Greatest QB Performances, and click here for Part II: Greatest Receiving Performances. 

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