One of the problems going into the game was the struggles of the team’s running backs, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday, as the unit provided the extra boost needed to keep the offense rolling and eventually close out the game.
Throughout most of the season, the Chiefs’ ground attack has featured a three-running back committee of Isiah Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick Mckinnon. However, against the Jaguars, the Chiefs truly rode with the hot hand of Pacheco, as he led the team with 16 carries for 82 yards.
No other running back had more than one carry as Pacheco begins to settle into the lead role for Kansas City — something he says is feeling more comfortable after each passing week.
“Definitely,” Pacheco responded, when asked if it was getting easier to find his rhythm with the starters. “Going at it every week, getting the feel for it — different teams, different schemes. For me, it’s having the same mindset every day when I come into the building of going to work. When I go out there on the practice field — go 100%, so when we come to game day, [we] can execute at a high, intense level.”
Another sign that Pacheco has taken the lead role in the backfield came after the first drive of Sunday’s game. Pacheco made a costly error of fumbling in the red zone as the team was looking to score.
“With me, during the moment, I was thinking, ‘I let my teammates down,’” Pacheco described how he felt after his fumble. “But during the same time I tried to go get the guy with the ball. For me, right there, the finishing (with) strain showed that I care and when I came back to the sideline, I didn’t hold my head down because I knew that I had a strong feeling in my heart that I was angry enough to go back out there and execute my job to a high level.”
Pacheco did just that, as he picked himself up and responded with a big run on the first play of the very next drive. He credited the coaching staff and his teammates for showing faith in him after the turnover.
“It just showed me that I can be something in this offense,” Pacheco said. “I was waiting for my number to get called. Whenever it got called, I got back in the huddle, ready to go and locked in.”
After that moment, Pacheco continued to receive the majority of the carries out of the backfield as the team utilized his bruising running style to complement the aerial assault of quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
As a result, the Jacksonville defense wore down throughout the game until finally reaching its breaking point on Kansas City’s last drive. Pacheco delivered the final blow on a tough 5-yard run for the first down to clinch the victory.
“I’m just getting that first couple hits off in the game and getting used to it,” Pacheco said. “For me, just more so delivering the hit so that the defense could feel me more so that I could get a better run down the line in the end of the game. Just try to get those guys on their toes that ‘he’s running hard.’”
It was a solid day for the seventh-rounder. Although players selected that late in the draft are rarely expected to make an impact, the Chiefs’ told Pacheco before drafting him that he could have a role on the team.
And after Sunday’s performance, it’s safe to say he has done his part to make that a reality.
“For me, it wasn’t just talking,” Pacheco said, recalling the moment. “It was just keep your head down, keep working. If they call your number, be ready to go and execute. You never know when your number is going to be called, so when it is, you make sure you’re ready to go.”