Battle aims for encore performance

Posted Oct 22, 2011

Jackie Battle looks to continue hot streak in Oakland

It was several weeks ago that Todd Haley described the Chiefs backfield as a running-back-by-committee approach. Jackie Battle was part of that committee, but primarily used as a short-yardage back.

Offensive coordinator Bill Muir prefers to describe the Chiefs backfield approach a bit differently.

“Our plan was to utilize the talent that we had,” Muir said, staying away from the “by-committee” label.

Regardless of how Chiefs coaches prefer to define their run game approach, the process ultimately discovered Battle October 9th in Indianapolis.

As the case had been following Jamaal Charles’ season-ending knee injury, the run game began with Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones splitting the majority of the Chiefs rushing attempts. That approach shifted with about 8 minutes remaining in the second quarter against the Colts.

Battle’s number was called four straight times. He gained six yards each on his first two carries, five yards on his third attempt and two yards on his fourth.

Dwayne Bowe then hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass two plays later. After that, Battle became the Chiefs backfield workhorse for the remainder of the afternoon.

“There are a number of plays, regardless of how it was blocked, that he was gaining a lot of yards after contact,” Muir observed. “That’s what we really like about him. We just like that finish mentality that he has.”

Four years of patience, and sometimes frustration, as a special teams player had finally paid off for Battle. He’d made the most of his opportunities 119-yards coming off 19 carries. He’d previously gained only 155 rushing yards in the past 37 games combined. Only on one occasion did he receive more than five rushing attempts in a game over that timeframe.

Out of obscurity, Battle has recently gained all the attention that comes with a breakout offensive performance.

“It’s funny,” Battle said. “I have people calling me about fantasy football. I don’t understand it completely, but everyone is telling me they’ve picked me up on their fantasy team.”

Battle’s enjoyed hearing from the well-wishers over the past two weeks, but he knows the real test has yet to come. Kansas City returns to action for the first time since Battle’s breakthrough game on Sunday and Battle is aiming to prove he’s not just a one-hit wonder.

“Even though I haven’t been getting carries these past four years, I’m preparing the same way,” Battle said. “I always prepared like I was going to get the carries and now I’m doing that same thing.

 “The bar has been set pretty high, but I’m going to just go out there and play like I’ve always played.”

Neither Haley nor Muir has come out and named Battle the team’s primary ball carrier, but both have made it clear that his performance in Indianapolis earned him a bigger piece of the Chiefs rushing pie.

“I think his role is pretty significant now,” Muir said. “Obviously, Jackie has done well with the opportunities that he’s been given. I think professional football is full of stories of guys who were anonymous until somebody in front of them got hurt and they got their opportunity.”

Battle played 352 snaps last season. Only 48 of those plays came on offense. The rest all came on special teams.

McCluster and Jones will still be important factors in the Chiefs offensive game plan, but it looks like Battle’s workload as a special teamer is ready to be scaled back. A similar situation occurred with Charles following the departure of Larry Johnson two seasons ago.

“The more running backs can carry the ball, the better feel they get, especially the instinctive ones,” Muir noted. “I think what you see is, yeah, Jackie is a work in progress, but we’re certainly very encouraged by where he is and the direction that he is going.”

Battle’s emergence comes at the right time.

The Chiefs struggled to run the football effectively in the two games following Charles’ injury. At San Diego, Kansas City rushed 27 times for just 81 yards and 28 attempts gained only 103 yards vs. Minnesota.

“Well, after Jamaal went down, we took a deep breath,” Muir said with a chuckle. “Obviously, when the team was put together, it was put together with the best group of backs that we had the ability to get or keep, however you want to phrase that. We knew Jamaal is an exceptional player – I mean 6.6 yards per carry - but we knew we had people that could fill the void.”

Battle’s tough-nosed rushing style seemed to breed confidence for the rest of the offense in Indianapolis. There’s no doubt he helped fuel Kansas City’s come from behind victory.

 “Jackie is emerging as somebody that you have confidence in because of his consistency,” Muir said.

“I feel like on offense we can finally have a little bit of a running game going,” added Battle. “We struggled with that after losing Jamaal and hopefully we can keep this thing working out pretty good.”

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