INDIANAPOLIS — Two weeks ago, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano believed running back Jamaal Charles was the most dangerous player on the Kansas City Chiefs roster.
Nothing about the Colts' 23-7 win at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 22 altered that opinion heading into Saturday's AFC wild card playoff rematch.
"We called him Public Enemy No. 1, and he still is," Pagano said. "... First and foremost, that's the guy that you've got to take away. They've got other skilled athletes, we know, on the outside in (wide receivers) Donnie Avery and Dwayne Bowe, and (Dexter) McCluster can beat you. Knile Davis coming in as a change of pace guy running it, and the quarterback certainly can beat you. But it all starts with Jamaal. We got to do a great job containing him, try to slow him down."
That didn't really happen during the teams' first meeting. At least, not by Indianapolis' hand.
Charles scored on a 31-yard run to cap the Chiefs' opening drive and gained 106 rushing yards on 13 carries overall. He also caught five passes for 38 yards, leaving many onlookers to wonder why he didn't touch the football more often.
Count Pagano among that group. And he doesn't expect Kansas City head coach Andy Reid to be so kind again.
"I'm sure we're going to see Jamaal," he said. "If he doesn't touch the ball 30 times, I'd be shocked."
Good things generally happen for the Chiefs when the ball is in Charles' hands.
He gained 1,980 yards from scrimmage this season with 1,287 coming on the ground at an average of 5 yards per carry. And he's finding the end zone more often than ever before.
His 12 rushing touchdowns led the league and are just five fewer than he'd scored in his previous five NFL seasons. His seven receiving touchdowns, meanwhile, doubled his career total.
His year has been good enough to put him on the periphery of the MVP conversation. So it's no surprise defenses seek out Charles. Even to the running back himself.
"You stop the run, you beat the Chiefs," he said. "So I know that's their main focus is stopping the run and let (quarterback) Alex (Smith) throw the ball to the wide receivers. We just got to keep that in focus, that they're going to come out and whatever they do in the run game, they're going to stop. We just got to continue to push the line of scrimmage forward and make plays."
Kansas City hasn't won a playoff game since Jan. 16, 1994, when Joe Montana led the team to a 28-20 victory against the Houston Oilers. And the Chiefs never have defeated Indianapolis in the postseason — losing in 1996, 2004 and 2007.
The regular-season loss two weeks ago likely weighs far greater on this Kansas City team's mind, however.
"It's a new season," Charles said. "You get there, the records are 0-0. We got to play faster, play harder than them, do what they did better than us last game. They played way better than us. They beat us in all phases."
The Chiefs (11-5) understand as well as anyone that doesn't have to remain the case.
A year ago, Kansas City finished 2-14 and earned the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. This season the team went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos — leading the AFC West for the first nine weeks and remaining alive in the title chase until the final two contests.
Indianapolis ended the division championship dream for the Chiefs. Charles wants to ensure there's a rewrite in the postseason.
"I don't want to go home this week," he said. "So I'm doing it in my mind to fight for my team and (make sure) we get the win this week."