Cassel Led Offense Let's Down Chiefs

When it comes to the Chiefs' offense, the last two weeks have been steeped in optimism, with fans hoping the firepower displayed against San Francisco was a sign of things to come. But Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, the unpleasant truth reared its ugly head.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Denny Green, when it comes to offense, the Chiefs are who we thought they were.

They had their chances, of course. If not for an endzone drop by Dwayne Bowe and Todd Haley's decision to pass on an easy field goal on the game's first drive, the Chiefs would have matched the Colts' output of 19 points.

But even if the game had been tied in the final minutes, would it really have mattered? One side had Peyton Manning leading the charge. The other had Matt Cassel. Who would you put your money on in that situation?

Cassel's performance did little to silence his critics, though he did – just barely – manage to avoid committing a turnover for the first time since Week 1. At this point in the season, it appears the Chiefs' path to victory involves three key elements: play strong defense, run the ball well, and either hope for a good day from Cassel or a big play on special teams.

Against Indianapolis, the Chiefs could only muster two of the three. That they were still able to hang tough with a team like the Colts despite not firing on all cylinders is an encouraging sign and a credit to the rest of the team. But when it comes to Cassel, we have to wonder how often that third element will actually come to fruition.

Four games into the season, it's happened just once.

Good quarterbacks are supposed to elevate the players around them. Consider Donovan McNabb, who was traded to the Redskins over the offseason. Washington finished with a 4-12 record in 2009, just like the Chiefs did. But other than a solid tight end in Chris Cooley, the Skins don't exactly have a collection of playmakers on offense.

Their running game is ranked in the bottom half of the league. Their defense was ranked 31st going into Sunday's action. And McNabb himself has hardly been perfect. But he's carried his team to a 3-2 record, including upset wins over Dallas and Green Bay.

And one of their two losses, against Houston, came in overtime of a game they had been leading by 17 points in the second half. In other words, largely on McNabb's back, the Redskins are incredibly close to being 4-1.

Charles still has not shown that he can break away from tacklers.
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Contrast that to Cassel, who has one of the league's best running games, game-breaking weapons like Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster, and a defense that's only giving up 14 points a game.

Despite those advantages, what evidence is there of Cassel elevating his teammates? How is he making the players around him better? How many times have the Chiefs won because of him, rather than in spite of him?

Given the Chiefs' fortunate schedule and San Diego's apparent inability to win a road game, K.C. just might have a chance to ride their defense and rushing attack to a division championship. But the sort of offense we saw against the Colts will lead to nothing but another first-round playoff disappointment.

If they had any hope of making a statement and defeating the Colts, the Chiefs needed Cassel to come through with a solid game. If he couldn't do it now, then under what circumstances will he come through?

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