Chiefs Need More From Cassel

KANSAS CITY, MO - The Chiefs' performance on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills was exactly the sort of thing that Todd Haley and his staff have been dreaming about.

The running game was unstoppable, producing almost 300 total yards on the ground. The defense was dominant, holding a potent Buffalo offense to just 10 points while constantly harassing the quarterback. It was the same kind of stifling performance that led the Chiefs to a blowout win over San Francisco last month.

Only this time, the Chiefs didn't blow out their opponent. Playing against the NFL's worst scoring defense, a unit that has allowed over 30 points a game, it took the Chiefs five full quarters just to score 13 points.

In fact, if not for a few lucky breaks – Haley's timeout during a Buffalo field goal, or Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass sailing just past the hands of a wide open C.J. Spiller in overtime – the Chiefs wouldn't have won this game at all.

How is that even possible? How could the Chiefs be so strong defensively and so powerful on the ground, yet still be taken to the absolute limit by a Bills team that's still winless on the season?

People have already taken to criticizing Haley for passing on a field goal in the second quarter, ignoring the wind conditions that surely played a part in his decision. But even if the Chiefs had successfully attempted that field goal, is a 13-10 win in regulation really that much more impressive than a 13-10 win in overtime?

There has to be something to explain why the Chiefs can dominate some games, yet barely squeak out a win in others, when their running and defense are playing at such high levels.

There is an explanation, of course. His name is Matt Cassel.

Had Dwayne Bowe been able to wrestle the ball away from Bills defender Drayton Florence in the end zone, maybe the Chiefs win big.
Getty Images.



For the past week, there's been a lot of talk about Cassel's improved play in recent games, justified by the fact that he had the league's highest passer rating in a four-week span. But after all that discussion, it only took one half against the Bills for Cassel to demonstrate how worthless passer rating is as a measure of a quarterback's performance.

For the first two quarters, Cassel missed open receivers, avoided an interception or two only by the butterfingers of the Bills' secondary, and mainly completed a series of unimpressive dinks and dumpoffs. But aided by his one-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe and a short pass that Jamaal Charles turned into a 31-yard gain, Cassel's passer rating was nearly 100.

It's difficult to pinpoint anywhere in the first four quarters of the game where Cassel was particularly effective. After all, it wasn't until overtime when he finally found some rhythm, hooking up with Tony Moeaki for some big plays. And his lack of effectiveness was a major reason why the Chiefs couldn't put up points against an awful Buffalo defense.

We've seen what the Chiefs are capable of when their three major phases – the running game, the defense, and Cassel – are clicking at the same time. But the game against Buffalo has revealed a rather unpleasant truth.

If the rushing attack bogs down inside the redzone, and the defense and/or special teams can't produce a game-changing play or two, the Chiefs need Cassel if they're going to score points and win games.

And if he doesn't come through, a winless team can come to Arrowhead and almost pull the upset.

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