KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Jamaal Charles had touched the ball more than 1,500 times in his Kansas City Chiefs career, between the times he was given it in the backfield and the times he had hauled in a pass.
He had fumbled it just 24 times.
So when Andy Reid decided to hand off to him in the final seconds Thursday night, with the Chiefs and Broncos knotted 24-all, the coach figured his odds were better that the two-time All-Pro would break a long run than he would fumble for the second time in the game.
"I thought that was a good play," Reid said afterward. "Didn't work out so good."
Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall managed to pop the ball from Charles' grasp, and Bradley Roby scooped it up. By the time he ran 21 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, the Broncos had scored twice in a span of 9 seconds, leaving the Chiefs just 27 seconds remaining in the game.
Barely enough time to digest what had just happened in a 31-24 defeat.
Charles could have dodged reporters in the aftermath, just like he had so effortlessly the Broncos most of the night. He could have hung out in the showers until the locker room closed, or slipped away. But instead, Charles took ownership of the loss, vowing that he would put his performance behind him with 14 games still on the schedule.
"You have to get over it. By tomorrow, it's going to be out of our mouths, the taste, and get focused for the next game," he said. "We have to restart ourselves, redeem myself."
Make no mistake: Charles wasn't sweeping anything to the gutter.
The star running back took the defeat as hard as anybody in the locker room, even saying at one point, "I tried to put the team on my back and I ended up losing the game. It's all on me."
That left his teammates to point out they may not have been in position to force overtime had Charles not run for 125 yards, or scored on a hip-swiveling, 34-yard first-half burst.
"Besides Jamaal being one of the best players in the league, he plays a big leadership role in our locker room," said quarterback Alex Smith, whose two interceptions also proved costly.
"You know, he's the type of guy — you can see it — you don't want to jump on the sore, so to speak. We're going to need him," Smith said. "Tonight hurts. It's almost like a shock. You don't even know what to feel at this point, but obviously, we have to find something out of this."
Finding things to fix won't be all that difficult.
The Chiefs committed five turnovers in the game, and nine penalties for 60 yards repeatedly put them in long third down situations they failed to convert.
The defense nearly bailed them out with another dynamic performance.
Justin Houston had two more sacks, and the Chiefs had three as a team, harassing Peyton Manning every time he dropped to pass. They also allowed just 61 yards on the ground, bottling up C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman every time they hit the line of scrimmage.
Still, it wasn't enough to overcome the many mistakes made by the Chiefs offense, none bigger than the two fumbles by Charles — one in his red zone, the other deep in his own territory.
"It's a team effort. We can't just point fingers at him," said Knile Davis, whose touchdown run with 2:27 left in the fourth quarter had given Kansas City the lead.
"Everybody made mistakes," Davis said. "His, you can see it better on the TV or from your view, but I made mistakes on the front line. Everybody made mistakes. Nobody had a perfect game."