KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the game on the line each of the past two weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs gave the ball to a running back who wasn’t a starter in college at LSU.
Even this season, Darrel Williams looked at one point to be no better than fourth in line for playing time at his position. But the Chiefs weren’t surprised when he delivered, first by converting a third-down screen pass to allow his team to run out the clock in a win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3 and then on Sunday by scoring the winning touchdown with 20 seconds remaining for a 34-30 victory over the Detroit Lions.
“It’s just who Darrel Williams is,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “He was that way at LSU. If you pay attention and watch him, [it isn’t] by chance that things happen for him on game day. The kids prepares himself. He understands what it takes to win.”
Williams said he never seriously considered transferring to find more playing time because he thought being around top backs daily would make him a better player.
“My biggest thing is being able to compete,” he said. “I saw the things they did every day and tried to make those things part of my game. I knew I had to work hard for playing time.”
He signed as an undrafted rookie last year with the Chiefs, playing behind Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing the season before.
“That was the same thing as my college decision,” Williams said. “I wanted to be able to compete with the top back in the NFL.”
Williams has an obvious belief in his ability.
“If you talk to Darrel, Darrel will tell you he can do it all,” Bieniemy said. “I’ve been told that quite a few times by Darrel.
“Whatever role you want him to step into, that’s the role he’s going to assume, and that’s the role he will play. The kid has no fear of what he does. There’s no stage too big for him.”
He passed Thompson, and Hyde was traded, but the Chiefs then put another obstacle for playing time in front of him. They signed veteran LeSean McCoy days before the start of the regular season.
“It was just another guy I had to compete with,” Williams said. “It’s just something that made me work harder.”
Williams finally got a break in the form of an injury to Chiefs running back Damien Williams. He led Chiefs running backs in playing time and rushing yards against the Ravens.
“[The Baltimore game] was a nice cookie that he gave himself for saying, ‘Listen, I busted my tail, I dropped my weight down, increased my body mass muscle-wise, and this is the result,'” coach Andy Reid said. “That helps you keep pushing through all of that. He’s naturally a big guy. I thought he played physical. I thought he did well in the pass game. Some of his blitz pickups [were] top-notch.”
The Chiefs weren’t afraid to play Williams on the third-and-9 play, when he took the screen pass 16 yards to effectively end the game.
“Coach trusted in me, believed in me,” Williams said, sounding not surprised but grateful. “Just being in that position meant a lot to me with the game being on the line.”
In Detroit, Williams had two rushing touchdowns, including the game winner. After the previous week, nobody should have been surprised when the Chiefs turned to Williams for a late touchdown.
“When the football is in my hands, I’m going to go to work,” he said. “I bring a lot to the table.”