Don’t blame Andy Reid for the worst decision in the NFL’s Week 2.
Blame Jamaal Charles.
Reid could have had quarterback Alex Smith take a knee and head for overtime after Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos on a tying touchdown drive with 36 seconds left in Kansas City.
He decided instead to try to get into field goal range.
So, on first down from his 20, Smith handed the ball to Charles, the usually sure-handed running back who had lost just 16 fumbles in his eight-year career going into Thursday night’s game.
“Well, what we were going to try to do was bust one,” Reid explained. “… He was running great and I thought that was a good play.
“Didn’t work out so good.”
Linebacker Brandon Marshall jabbed the ball out of Charles’ grasp and cornerback Bradley Roby’s scoop-six gave Denver a stunning 31-24 victory, the Broncos’ record 13th consecutive divisional road win.
Charles had run for 125 yards and a score, but he also had fumbled at the Broncos 9 early in the game.
“I (wasn’t) careful with the ball,” Charles said after his second career two-turnover game. “That’s my fault.”
Marshall, who initially feared he had broken a finger on the winning play, said he targeted the football because he’d seen Charles holding it precariously all night.
“I realized he was holding the ball loose,” Marshall said.
Charles took responsibility.
“I should have been smarter and put two hands on the ball,” he said, putting the blame on his shoulders.
There were plenty of other eyebrow-raisers across the NFL in Week 2:
SCRUM SCRUPLES: Pete Carroll saw Seahawks guard Justin Britt emerge from the pile and hand the football to an official. So he assumed Seattle still had the ball at midfield midway through the fourth quarter trailing Green Bay by seven.
The officials ruled Jayrone Elliott recovered his own fumble after making a lunging, one-handed interception of a short pass from Russell Wilson.
“I really don’t understand that very well,” Carroll complained after Green Bay’s 27-17 win dropped Seattle to 0-2.
Let former director of NFL officials Mike Pereira explain:
“Officials don’t wait around to see who comes out of the pile with the football. They go into the pile to find out who has the football,” said Pereira, now an analyst for Fox. “Once they find out who has it, it’s dead. It doesn’t matter who comes out of there with it.”
Simultaneous possession goes to the team that had the ball before it was coughed up, too. Pereira said the replay booth determined there was no footage that could have led to a reversal.
HAMMING IT UP: Jay Cutler didn’t learn his lesson in 2011. He broke a thumb trying to make a tackle on an interception and missed the final six games that year.
On Sunday he pulled a hamstring trying to bring down Tony Jefferson on a 26-yard pick-six in the Bears’ 48-23 loss to Arizona.
RUBBING IT IN: Bill Belichick should have — yep — taken the air out of the ball with a big lead in Buffalo.
Up 12 with less than five minutes left, Tom Brady dropped back instead of handing off and a strip-sack led to a turnover and Sammy Watkins’ 24-yard TD catch that pulled the Bills to 37-32. Brady then led the Patriots to a field goal and New England held on for the win. It didn’t have to be this close.
CAM’S TUMBLE: Cam Newton’s somersault into the end zone on a quarterback draw that led Carolina to a 24-17 victory over Houston was the most athletic play of the weekend.
Not so graceful was his near face-plant into the concrete after the game. Celebrating the win by trotting alongside the stands to slap hands with the fans, a towel draped over his head, Newton never saw the tunnel entrance before his cleats skidded out from under him.
HOLDING PATTERN: Will Hill III’s holding call negated an interception one play before Derek Carr threw a 12-yard TD pass to Seth Roberts with 26 seconds left that gave the Raiders a 37-33 win over Baltimore.
“I thought we had the game won there,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
Instead, the Ravens are 0-2 and lots of survivor pool players are done for the year.
DEMARCO THE DECOY: Chip Kelly had a first down at the Dallas 3 with five minutes left in the third quarter trailing 13-0. Instead of pounding the ball up the middle with DeMarco Murray, whom he lured out of Dallas with a $42 million contract, he called two straight passes.
Now, the Eagles are 0-2, and the Cowboys, without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, are 2-0.
TOUGH CALLS: Two big calls are forthcoming:
1. What does Browns coach Mike Pettine do when injured starter Josh McCown returns? Johnny Manziel threw a 60-yard TD pass in the Browns’ 28-14 win over Tennessee for his first win as an NFL starter.
2. What does Steelers coach Mike Tomlin do with DeAngelo Williams when All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell returns from his two-game suspension? Williams tied a team record with three TD runs in the Pittsburgh’s 43-18 wipeout of the 49ers.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL. Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton