KC Peaking at the Right Time

Winning a road game for the first time since Week two, the Chiefs had one of their best performances of the season on Sunday, pummeling Seattle by a final score of 42-24.

Defensively, the Chiefs were without their best player in cornerback Brandon Flowers, and their already weakened secondary dealt with more injuries as the game wore on. But the Chiefs' usually suspect road defense fought through it, holding the Seahawks to just 288 yards and 17 points (an additional seven came off a blocked punt).

Meanwhile, the Chiefs' suddenly prolific offense rolled up nearly 500 yards despite the absence of left tackle Branden Albert. Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe were unstoppable, both going over 170 yards on the afternoon. And over the last month, the team has been averaging a surprising 30.5 points a game.

But the story of the day was the play of Matt Cassel, who is forcing even his harshest critics to acknowledge the improvements he's made these last few weeks.

The Cassel we saw on Sunday wasn't just a game-manager. He attacked downfield with his arm. He made plays with his legs, picking up over twenty yards on a single run. He read the defense and called audibles at the line of scrimmage. He made plays out of nothing, such as the late third quarter play where he avoided a potential sack and threw a strike to Bowe to convert a key third down.

For the first time all year, instead of letting the league's best rushing attack do all the heavy lifting, the Chiefs actually won with their quarterback taking center stage.

It'd be easy to say that Cassel played like he had something to prove to Seahawks' coach Pete Carroll, who picked Matt Leinart as his quarterback over Cassel back in their USC days. But Cassel's performance on Sunday didn't suddenly happen out of the blue.

For starters, he's been riding a ridiculous touchdown to interception ratio for the last two months, which doesn't happen by accident. Then, while playing to the end in a blowout loss to Denver, he appeared to find his rhythm (especially with Bowe) and seemed to gain a confidence that he didn't display early in the season.

He came out the following week with a solid game against Arizona, and then turned in perhaps his best performance as a Chief against Seattle. And, again, he did it without the usually-reliable Albert guarding his blind side, which had to make him at least a little bit uncomfortable.

QB Matt Cassel's 2010 turnaround has been the key to KC's revival .
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As strong as Cassel as looked, though, we do have to take it with a few grains of salt. While going on the road and winning in Seattle is no picnic, we can't ignore that these last two games have come against the NFC West, a division so bad that a team with a losing record now sits in first place.

The real test will come over these next two weeks.

First, the Chiefs have to get past Denver this weekend, and after what happened two weeks ago, they should have all the motivation in the world to take a lousy Broncos team and stomp them into the dust.

A year ago, Cassel played the worst game of his career when the Broncos came to Arrowhead, actually getting pulled for Brodie Croyle in the third quarter. This year, it was Cassel's fumble in Denver that officially extinguished any faint hopes of the Chiefs getting back into the game. So he has as much to prove on Sunday as anyone.

Then it's off to San Diego, where we'll really see how far Cassel has come. Chatter about a potential wildcard spot has started to pick up around K.C., which would give the Chiefs a fallback if they don't win the division. However, even though the team's overall record is close enough to have them involved in the wildcard discussion, the odds of it are extremely long because the Chiefs are so weak in the tiebreaker categories.

A wildcard isn't impossible, but by far, the Chiefs' best shot at the postseason still remains the division championship.

Unfortunately, after easily dismantling Peyton Manning and the Colts in Indianapolis, the Chargers have now won four straight games. Looking over their remaining schedule, it's impossible to find a game where they won't be favored. And just like in the wildcard, a tie will do the Chiefs no good.

That means unless the Chargers stumble somewhere along the way, the Chiefs will have to win in San Diego in order to win the division.

That game, which could essentially be a playoff-like atmosphere, should answer the questions about Cassel. Is he only looking impressive because the Chiefs are playing also-rans from the NFL's worst division? Or has he legitimately raised his game to a point where the Chiefs can be competitive against the best teams in the league?

Whatever the answer ends up being, there's no question that Cassel is getting hot at just the right time. For the Chiefs to get where they want to be, he just needs to keep it going.

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