NEW ORLEANS -- Trailing by 18 points to the New Orleans Saints late in the third quarter Sunday, not many could have blamed the winless Kansas City Chiefs if they had started thinking about the bitter inevitability of an 0-3 start.
It took one historic run - a 91-yard touchdown scamper by Jamaal Charles that was the longest run from scrimmage in Chiefs' history - to ignite an avalanche that culminated in 233 rushing yards by Charles and six field goals by Ryan Succop, including the 31-yard game winner with 6:28 left in overtime, to bury the Saints, 27-24, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"It truly does sometime take one play," Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel said, referring to Charles' burst around left end for the touchdown on the first play after the Saints had taken a 24-6 lead with 5:41 left in the third on Drew Brees' 1-yard pass to fullback Jed Collins. "One play speaks volumes sometimes. You get that spark, and then you get an interception and make some plays. Jamaal was huge for us."
Charles, who took a shot to the knee in a loss against Buffalo last week, hardly looked gimpy as he raced around left end and outraced the entire Saints' secondary into the end zone. Safety Roman Harper grasped at air as Charles approached the Saints' 10-yard line.
"I just tried to go out there and run as fast as I can, and I ended up scoring," Charles said. "I just thank God for letting me show my speed again."
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said his eyes got wide as he saw Charles motor past him on the sidelines and he saw the Saints' secondary in trail mode.
"That was one long run," Crennel said. "I saw the (defender) coming from behind, and sometimes those guys coming from behind are able to strip the ball. So I was yelling to him, 'Watch from behind!' But I knew he was going to be able to go all the way."
The Saints' second-half collapse, which has left them searching for answers at 0-3, was more than one bad defensive play. Brees threw an interception immediately after Charles' 91-yard TD, which led to a 34-yard Succop field goal. In the fourth quarter and overtimes, the Chiefs outgained the Saints 144 yards to minus-16 yards.
"The third and fourth quarter were really abysmal," Brees said, who was 7-of-17 for just 70 yards in the second half and was sacked in the end zone by linebacker Justin Houston for a safety with 5:33 left, drawing the Chiefs within 24-21. "We've got to find a way to fix that.
That's not our standard, and that's going to get fixed."
In addition to his 233 yards on 33 carries, Charles added 55 yards on eight receptions. He is the only player in NFL history other than Jim Brown in 1963 to gain 225 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving in a game.
After being inconsistent in a week one loss to Atlanta, Succop made all six field goal tries, with the others coming from 25, 45, 34, 38 and 43 yards. The 43-yarder sent the game into overtime with three seconds left in regulation.
"I felt like I hit them all good today," Succop said. "This was a huge team win."
The Saints appeared headed to a walkover, leading 24-6 with 6:21 left in the third quarter. But the Saints' defense -- the worst in the NFL against the run -- couldn't come close to putting a hand Charles.
After the 91-yard Charles run, cornerback Stanford Routt picked off a Brees underthrow on the Saints' next possession, and Charles went to work again, this time galloping 40 yards through a massive hole off right tackle. That set up Succop's 34-yard field goal, moving the Chiefs within 24-16 with 13:45 left.
After a three-and-out, Matt Cassel moved the Chiefs 50 yards in nine plays to set up another Succop field goal, this one from 38 yards, to inch closer, 24-19, with just over nine minutes left.
NOTES: Brees' 9-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore on the Saints'
opening possession extended his streak of throwing a scoring pass in
46 consecutive games, one shy of Johnny Unitas' all-time NFL record. ...
The officials had a crash course in video reviews. Five separate on-field rulings were reversed by replacement referee Don King, and two erased apparent Saints' touchdowns. ... The Chiefs had to juggle their offensive line, moving left guard Ryan Lilja to center when Rodney Hudson went down with a knee injury. Running back Dexter McCluster suffered a left elbow injury and did not return.