How does a player earn the highest fantasy football single-game RB score in NFL history … while rushing only 8 times for 20 yards? When his name is Jamaal Charles.
Jamaal Charles fantasy background
On December 15, 2013, the Chiefs all-world running back tallied an 8-20-1 rushing line with an incredible 8-195-4 receiving line. The Week 15 outburst netted him 59.5 PPR fantasy points — the most ever recorded in one game. PFN Executive Editor Aaron Sutton came from behind to beat his opponent on that glorious afternoon. Like Aaron, some of you won because of what Charles did. Others lost in heart-wrenching fashion. Regardless, everyone who witnessed this game remembers it.
Charles was already a fantasy mainstay. He was the RB9 the previous year with a 285-1,509-5 rushing line and 35-236-1 receiving line. Charles was the RB11 in 2009 and RB4 in 2010. He averaged an astronomical 6.1 yards per carry in his first four campaigns. Simply put, he was one of the greatest running backs of his time, and at 26 years old heading into that Week 15 matchup against the Raiders, he was at his peak as an NFL and fantasy superstar.
The Raiders were tough against the run, yielding only 3.9 yards per carry — seventh-best in the league. But they gave up the most points in the AFC that season. They were also very beatable against the pass, yielding the fifth-most aerial yards. And they had the NFL’s second-fewest interceptions.
But Kansas City didn’t have any big-name receivers. Dwayne Bowe was on the downside of his relatively brief-yet-impressive career. Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster were the next-best receiving options, and neither had much of an impact after 2015. It turns out the key to victory for a team that lacked a true No. 1 receiver facing a rival that was most beatable through the air was to go through Charles.
How Charles broke the record: First half
Every game, defenses blitz quarterbacks. In this game, Charles blitzed the defense.
In the first seven-and-a-half minutes, he’d racked up 2 catches for 88 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 8 rushing yards. That’s 23.6 fantasy points in the time it takes to make an omelet. The Chiefs wouldn’t get another play on offense until the second quarter, as Raiders QB Matt McGloin threw a pick-six, keeping Charles off the field for nearly eight minutes.
On Kansas City’s next two drives, Charles tacked on only 2.9 fantasy points, but it could have been 6 more. With 9:35 remaining in the first half, he caught a pass at the Raiders’ 4-yard line. A defender grabbed him around the ankle as another defender came on to finish the job. But Charles broke free, fell on one hand, did a half-spin, and lunged to within a couple of inches of the end zone. On the next play, Chiefs offensive tackle Rokevious Watkins finished the job; incredibly, this would be the only rushing attempt of Watkins’ career.
Another McGloin interception set up another Charles receiving touchdown. In KC’s first 17 offensive plays of the game, Charles had accrued 35.1 fantasy points, which simply boggles the mind. He finished the first half with 37.1.
How Charles broke the record: Second half
Trailing 35-17 at halftime, the Raiders rattled off touchdowns on consecutive drives to start the third quarter and closed the gap to just 4 points. That was good news for those needing more from Charles. On third-and-1 from their own 29, the Chiefs called a play-action pass while their No. 1 weapon went deep. Alex Smith hit him in the flat 22 yards downfield. Charles made one cut to juke a defender and then jogged uncontested into the end zone, extending his team’s lead to 42-31 with 3:47 left in the third.
Had the Raiders marched right back down the field and scored, history might have been different. But a fumble on the ensuing kickoff handed the ball back to Kansas City. Three plays into their drive, Smith was knocking on the door at the 6-yard line. Charles stood to his left with his hands on his knees, and on the snap ran immediately toward the left corner and turned with a clear shot at the end zone. No one was within 5 yards of him.
But Smith never looked his way. Instead, he fired a laser at TE Sean McGrath, who caught the ball at the one, pivoted, and crossed the plane. It was the 17th contest of what would be a 51-game career for McGrath, spanning six seasons and three teams. But it marked only his second — and as it turned out, his final — touchdown of his career.
Charles didn’t touch the ball again in the third quarter, nor at any time in the fourth quarter. He didn’t need to. McGloin threw 2 more interceptions on his next two drives, giving him 5 turnovers on the day. In six other NFL starts, he had only 4 total turnovers. Had McGloin performed better, the Raiders might have stayed in this game longer, and Charles might have been forced to do more. Instead, fantasy managers “settled” for 59.5 points from an RB who was on the field for only 56% of his team’s offensive snaps.
Charles’ fantasy legacy
The following year would be Charles’ final great season: a 206-1,033-9 rushing line and a 40-291-5 receiving line, making him the RB7. The following summer, he owned an RB3 ADP, and he started 2015 with performances of 21.3, 18.7, 31.2, and 20.5 fantasy points, putting him on pace to be that season’s unquestioned RB1.
But in Week 5, he tore the ACL in his right knee, knocking him out for the rest of the year. He tried to work his way back in 2016, but he was sidelined again at midseason after another knee surgery. The Chiefs cut him that offseason. Charles flashed in a complementary role for the 2017 Broncos (425 yards on 97 touches) before quietly wrapping up his career in 2018 with the Jaguars (14 yards on 8 touches).
At his peak, Charles was the greatest player of his time, combining extraordinary rushing efficiency and elite pass catching. If not for his ACL injury at age 27, he could have had at least three more healthy seasons, and he might have been regarded as one of the most productive, complete backs in NFL history.
Instead, we’re left awestruck at what he accomplished in such a brief amount of time. And we’re left dumbstruck at how a running back could do what no one else has done on only 16 touches.