Pacheco adds new dimension to Chiefs offence in bid for Super Bowl repeat
The Kansas City Chiefs will counter with a 2022 seventh-round pick of their own in running back Isiah Pacheco. The Rutgers product was selected 251st overall, 10 players ahead of Purdy, and has been a key to the explosive Chiefs offence since stepping onto the field.
Drafted as a depth option to play behind former first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Pacheco averaged just five carries per game to start his career in 2022. However, he made an immediate impression in his NFL debut, rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.
Pacheco took the starting job from Edwards-Helaire in Week 7 of his rookie season and would not look back. The 24-year-old started each game for the rest of the season and finished as the team’s rushing leader with 830 yards and five touchdowns. He also started each of the team's three playoff games, totalling 197 yards and a touchdown en route to a Super Bowl victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
No Sophomore Slump
The Vineland, N.J., native entered 2023 as the unquestioned starter at running back and did not disappoint. While the Chiefs’ passing game struggled with drops and inconsistency, Pacheco was a consistent producer, rushing for 935 yards and seven touchdowns in just 14 games.
The powerful runner has come alive over the final stretch of the season, scoring a touchdown in seven consecutive games, including the game-winning scores in the Divisional Round win over the Buffalo Bills and the AFC Championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Adding the bruising 5-foot-10, 216-pound running back has brought a new dimension to the Chiefs offence, which had struggled to establish a consistent ground threat since the departure of Kareem Hunt in 2019.
Pacheco has also greatly improved as a pass catcher out of the backfield in his sophomore year, catching 44 passes this season, after recording 13 receptions in 2022.
Over the course of two postseason runs, Pacheco has averaged 18.7 touches and 90.5 total yards per game.
Through three playoff games this season, Pacheco is averaging 21 carries and 84 rushing yards per game with a score in each game. His touchdown streak extends back to last postseason, as he scored against the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
Pacheco could once again be the key to unlocking the Chiefs' offence against the 49ers, as San Francisco struggled against the run in both victories on their road to the Super Bowl. Detroit Lions running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs combined for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship, while the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones rushed for 108 yards in the Divisional round.
Unique Running Style
While Pacheco is an accomplished playoff performer looking to win his second Super Bowl in two seasons as a pro, he might be best known for his aggressive and distinct running style.
NFL fans have described Pacheco’s running style as ‘someone running like the ground owes them money’ and ‘like watching a kid trying on a new pair of shoes’.
The Chiefs’ tailback is aware of the discussion about his running style and offered an explanation for his on-field aggression.
“The funniest one is they said I run like I bite people. But I ain’t no zombie,” Pacheco told the media before the AFC Championship game. “It’s a mindset of mine in the preparation leading up to the games. For me, it’s being determined and knowing that I have a goal to achieve and wanting to get the job done.
“You never know when your last play will be out there on that field. For me, to go as hard as I can every play, because you never know when it’s going to be your last play and I don’t want to regret it if that last play is a bad play.”
2023 season stats - 14 games
- 205 carries, 935 yards, seven touchdowns
- 44 receptions, 244 yards, two touchdowns
Career stats - 31 games
- 375 carries, 1,765 yards, 12 touchdowns
- 57 receptions, 374 receptions, two touchdowns
Playoff Stats - 6 games
- 100 carries, 451 yards, four touchdowns
- 12 receptions, 92 yards