Kansas City, Mo With every carry, Tony Richardson makes Kansas City Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham wish he'd kept Richardson at the featured running back's spot all along.
Alternating between halfback and fullback during Sunday's 15-14 victory over Carolina, Richardson rushed for 89 yards and caught eight passes for 56 yards, giving him a career-best 145 yards from scrimmage.
Switching positions is something he has been doing all year. He started the season at halfback, then was moved to fullback as injuries caused Cunningham to constantly reshuffle his running backs.
Against Carolina, he opened at halfback but returned to fullback after Donnell Bennett suffered a knee injury.
"I thought it was great, outstanding," Cunningham said Monday. "That's what you need a back like that. Early in the game they came up and supported the run pretty good but late in the game he started to come alive and ran over a couple of people and they were taking their lumps. Tony kept getting stronger and that's what you need."
The Chiefs have suffered from a poor running game all year, a problem that figured heavily into their recent five-game losing streak.
If Richardson had been left at running back Cunningham's original plan perhaps things would have been different.
"There's no doubt. I questioned myself and got advice from a lot of people about what to do after Donnell went down," Cunningham said.
"I should have gone with my heart which was to keep him at the running back. But we were short a fullback and Jason Dunn wasn't ready for the second tight end position, although (tight end) Troy Drayton was doing well at the time."
Richardson, who had 17 carries against the Panthers, has made himself as versatile as possible.
"Marcus Allen used to always tell me, 'Don't learn one position,"' Richardson said. "You need to know what the fullback is doing. You need to know what the halfback is doing, what your offensive linemen are doing, and that helps as a runner."
Bennett underwent an MRI on Monday and his availability for Sunday's home finale against Denver was in doubt. If he cannot play, Cunningham is inclined to keep Richardson at the running back spot.
"We'll keep Tony as the running back and we'll see what we do from that point," Cunningham said. "We used some of the two-back offense with Tony as the fullback down in the red zone."
The Chiefs, who came into the Carolina game ranked just 28th in the NFL in rushing yards, wound up with 138 60 yards above their average.
Added to Elvis Grbac's 315 passing yards, the Chiefs totaled 453 net yards.
"T-Rich (Richardson) got the nod and I think he took advantage of it," center Tim Grunhard said. "I think we'll see more of that. Because we pass so much, we were able to make some plays inside and run the ball. When we're about to do that and pass, what did we have? Like 500 yards of offense? That's beautiful."