Charles scored the first of his team record-tying five touchdowns on a 49-yard screen pass on the first play from scrimmage, sending the Chiefs to a 56-31 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday that clinched at least a wild-card spot.
"A big part of this team depends on me, Charles said. "Once I'm healthy this offense can go a long way and this team can go a long way."
Alex Smith threw four of his five TD passes to Charles, going 17 for 20 for 287 yards to make the Chiefs the fourth team ever to make the playoffs a year after losing at least 14 games. Kansas City (11-3) is tied for first place in the AFC West with Denver but needs help to win the division because the Broncos swept the season series.
"Anytime you can be a part of the turnaround, it's a special feeling," Smith said. "These guys have worked hard and deserve a ton of credit. It's special to be a part of this."
Matt McGloin threw four interceptions and lost a fumble while sharing time with Terrelle Pryor as Oakland (4-10) allowed the most points in franchise history and lost its fourth straight game. The Raiders had seven turnovers overall.
The performance drew constant boos from a crowd frustrated over 11 straight seasons without a winning record and raise questions about whether the Raiders are showing enough progress in year two under coach Dennis Allen to convince owner Mark Davis to keep him around for a third season.
"We get paid out there to play, we get paid out there to not let these guys light up the scoreboard the way they did," cornerback Tracy Porter said. "They did, in fact, what we didn't want them to do. We have no one to blame but ourselves."
There is not questioning the progress the Chiefs have made in their first year under coach Andy Reid. He took over a team that went 2-14 a year ago in a season troubled by the murder-suicide involving Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot to death the mother of his infant child before turning the gun on himself.
"It's a feeling that you want everyone to have," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "It's a great feeling. What we went through last year to be in this situation and have an opportunity to do some big things, clinching the playoffs before the season's over, it's great."
The addition of Smith to a talented roster that featured six Pro Bowl players also helped. Charles was one of those Pro Bowlers a year ago but he never had a game quite like this even though he only rushed for 20 yards in eight carries.
He did most of his work in the passing game, beating blitzes with screen passes and also having success running patterns downfield. He caught eight passes for 195 yards and four touchdowns in the third-most productive receiving day by a running back since the 1970 merger.
"I didn't do much," Smith said. "I mean three screens for touchdowns. I've never been a part of anything like that or seen that."
Charles joined Shaun Alexander, Jerry Rice and Clinton Portis as the only players since the merger to score five touchdowns and gain at least 200 yards from scrimmage in a single game.
"I don't know how anybody can be more valuable to a team and the success that we've had than he has," Reid said.
The Chiefs built a 35-10 lead before the Raiders scored three straight touchdowns to make it a game late in the third quarter. It quickly became a blowout again.
On a third-and-1, Smith found Charles on a wheel route down the sideline for a completion. Charles then cut toward the middle and raced in for the 71-yard score that tied Abner Haynes' team record set in 1961 against the Raiders with five TDs in a game.
The Chiefs put the game away after Taiwan Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up a 6-yard TD pass to Sean McGrath that made it 49-21.
Knile Davis' 17-yard run midway through the fourth quarter gave the Chiefs the highest-scoring game in the NFL this season and the most points ever scored against the Raiders, breaking the mark of 55 last reached by Baltimore in 2012.
The Raiders were officially eliminated from the playoff chase for the 11th straight season shortly before kickoff and played like a team going nowhere.
The tone was set right from the start when Quintin Demps returned the opening kick 50 yards and Charles then took a short pass from Smith and raced 49 yards for the score. Charles scored on a 39-yard screen pass on third-and-19 on the next possession.
"We were anticipating screens," Allen said. "We just didn't play them as well as we needed to play them."
Turnovers left to three more touchdowns and Oakland trailed 35-10.
NOTES: Chiefs OL Eric Fisher left the game with an injured left shoulder. ... The seven turnovers by Oakland were the most for the team since seven against Miami in 1998.