KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs have been using a carousel of running backs this season but one of them, a seventh-round rookie from Rutgers University, has emerged.
Isiah Pacheco started slowly, totaling just 197 yards and one touchdown across eight games. He fumbled early in last November's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, his third career fumble.
But that was all just a part of the process, according to Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
"The only way you're gonna learn to improve is to go out there and make a mistake," Bieniemy said. "Sometimes, the best thing that you can do is make a mistake."
Now as Pacheco heads into the final stretch of his first regular season in the National Football League, he has been soaking in more information than ever before.
"Just taking the details and pinning them down upstairs in the meeting rooms and then when I come into practice, being able to execute it," Pacheco said.
Running backs coach Greg Lewis says fellow running backs like Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire have taken Pacheco under their wing, teaching and developing him as he navigates his first year in the NFL.
"All those guys talk to each other," Bieniemy said. "They have a great chemistry. They have a great working relationship together, so they're helping him to improve on every aspect of his game."
Bieniemy also praised Pacheco for "listening" and "learning a lot on his own."
Pacheco said that those behaviors started at a young age and have carried over to now.
"For me, it's just carry over the same mindset and continue to be a leader on this team," Pacheco said. "It will definitely help us."
Pacheco has a physical style of running the football, seeking contact from opposing players instead of shying away from it.
"You have to have that temperament to play physical and to play aggressive and he has that," Bieniemy said.
That style has him leading the team in rushing with 521 total yards, averaging 81 yards over the last four games. He also has touchdowns in back-to-back games.
"He's doing a great job right now," Bieniemy said. "Knock on wood (because) I don't wanna jinx him."
Pacheco pointed to his hard work and comfortability with the team as reasons for his most productive stretch as a professional.
"Day in and day out, it's all that practice," Pacheco said. "Continuously getting comfortable behind the guys and continuously building. Days like this, when we lose and we come back, you see who's really ready to work."
Pacheco will face a Denver Broncos defense this Sunday that is holding opponents to just 17 points per game, second-best in the league behind only the San Francisco 49ers.
"They cover ground and they fly around, so we gotta be ready to roll from the start," Pacheco said.