Monday Morning Quarterback: Stuffing Seattle

On Sunday, the Chiefs kept the Thanksgiving feast going by carving up the Seahawks for a 42-24 victory. There was plenty of room for guys on both sides of the ball to get leftovers, including big man Shaun Smith and K.C.'s leading receiver Dwayne Bowe, both of whom made names for themselves in the franchise record books.



After stuffing Seattle, the Chiefs improved to 7-4 on the season, and stood their ground atop the AFC West. Just about every player on offense had a stellar showing against the NFC West division-leading Seahawks, who ranked towards the bottom in numerous categories on defense. The Chiefs' defense also reminded us of their potential in shutting down an offense early and held the Seahawks to only 288 total yards. It's tough to choose a single player who stood out among the rest of their teammates, because just about every player contributed in this crucial victory.

The Chiefs sported red pants with their white jerseys – a rare combination in recent years – and I couldn't help but think that it just about put a fire underneath them. Well, maybe not, but seeing Matt Cassel outrush an entire Seahawks team is plenty to show that things were clicking for Kansas City. The Seahawks rushed for only 20 yards, mainly coming from Marshawn Lynch, while Cassel registered 28 yards on the ground. In fact, he showed rare glimpses of mobility when he ran for a 23-yard gain.

I dig the red pants, and hopefully this fashion will stick more often, especially after seeing these results. The hot pants gave Cassel marathon runner legs good enough for him to temporarily shed his label of being a largely immobile quarterback. Late in the third quarter, Cassel showed more speed when he sped down the field to provide a block for his running back Jamaal Charles. In fact, Cassel was seemingly running faster than Charles himself.

These gains were samplers of Cassel's improvisation throughout the entire game. Cassel was seen changing plays at the line of scrimmage with much success; one particular play within the two-minute warning of the second quarter saw him audible when he spotted the Seahawks ready to blitz. Cassel quickly dumped the ball off to Dwayne Bowe, and the Chiefs snatched up another first down – just one of their 28 on the day.

Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' mentorship has begun to boast its dividends onto Cassel, and it's slowly making believers out of the doubters, including myself.

Dwayne Bowe continues his onslaught on the NFL.
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This particular game started out fast, with Cassel leading the charge in the Chiefs' most impressive offensive drive of the season. In only three-and-a-half minutes, the Chiefs struck on a Cassel touchdown pass to Bowe. The reception gave Bowe 12 touchdowns for the year, good enough to tie the Chiefs' franchise record in receiving touchdowns in a season. He easily eclipsed that mark when Cassel went his way for most of the game, including two more touchdown passes.

Bowe finished with 13 receptions for 170 yards and three touchdowns. His 14 touchdown receptions on the year are surely enough to get him a good look for Pro Bowl voters. He surpassed Chris Burford's 12 touchdown receptions from the 1962 season and stretched his 100-yard game streak to three, just one short of Tony Gonzalez's four-game streak from the 2000 campaign.

Besides Bowe, Cassel has found a new target in Verran Tucker, who has replaced Chris Chambers in the Chiefs' game plans. Tucker only caught one pass on the day for 24 yards, but the reception set up the Chiefs' first score on the day (a pass from Cassel to Bowe). Tight end Tony Moeaki returned to action and caught a touchdown pass from Cassel. It was his 32nd reception as a rookie, putting him just one behind Tony Gonzalez' mark of 33 receptions from the entire 1997 season.

Another big target for Cassel, wide receiver/running back Dexter McCluster, was seen warming up before the game, but was listed as inactive just before game time strictly out of caution.

By holding the Seahawks' rushers to just 20 yards, the Chiefs will surely climb back into the top ten of the best overall defenses in the NFL; they entered the game at #12 on the list. The secondary had trouble containing Seattle's Ben Obomanu, who tallied a career high 159 yards with one touchdown. The biggest chunk of those yards came from an 87-yard reception that caught the Chiefs' secondary off-guard. Kansas City's free safety Kendrick Lewis looked like a deer in headlights on this particular play, but it wasn't too much to worry about. The big play occurred when the Chiefs were already leading 35-17 in the fourth quarter, and Lewis made up for it later on.

Rookie Safety Kendrick Lewis had his first career interception forn the Chiefs on Sunday.
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Lewis had a solid game; he recorded his first career interception against Matt Hasselbeck and had a nice counterpart in Travis Daniels, who snagged his own pick from the veteran quarterback just a few minutes earlier. Daniels could have had two interceptions on the day, but a coach's challenge overturned his first, as footage showed the ball touching the ground upon impact. Daniels took the place of injured starting cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was out with a hamstring injury.

Lewis and Daniels weren't the only folks on defense that were hamming it up at Qwest Field. Linebacker Derrick Johnson registered both his first sack and his fourth forced fumble on the year; fellow linebacker Tamba Hali recovered the fumble.

For Seattle, Hasselbeck finished the game 20-of-37 for 282 yards with two touchdowns, and the two aforementioned interceptions. He was the victim of Chiefs defensive end Shaun Smith, who registered his first quarterback sack on the season. Smith also became the first NFL defensive end to register both a quarterback sack on defense and a touchdown on offense since William "Refrigerator" Perry did so in 1985 for the Chicago Bears.

Like I predicted he would become in my column from last week, the 325 pound Smith provided a hefty goal-line option for the Chiefs. Just prior to scoring the touchdown Jamaal Charles hit a brick wall in trying to break the plane, but nobody could stop Smith from powering in for the score. The Chiefs' regular goal-line option, Thomas Jones finished the game with 68 yards on 20 carries and struggled while Charles and Smith reaped the benefits.

Kansas City controlled the ball for 41 minutes—a season-high for a team that has struggled all season in trying to suffocate their opponents for the full 60 minutes of regulation. In fact, it was the Chiefs' biggest time of possession since they held the ball for 42:15 on October 29, 2006. Their opponent in that game was none other than the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle didn't register their initial first down of the game until the six-minute mark of the second quarter. There's no doubt that they were hurting without their top receiver Mike Williams, who led the team in receiving prior to injuring his foot last week. The Seahawks registered just 288 total yards on offense and could only muster 13 first downs total on the day.

It's baffling to think that the division-leading Seahawks could be so dull on offense, but they stayed in the game early by giving the Chiefs some good scares with their special teams. Not only did their gunners on special teams hit hard, but they also backed up their aggressive play with speed and agility. A blocked field goal early in the game gave the Seahawks a brief chance to get back into the game, but a blocked punt returned by rookie defensive back Earl Thomas gave the Seahawks their first score of the game.

Seahawks QB Matt Hasselback could only muster 288 yards of total offense against KC's defense.
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After a successful extra point attempt, the Seahawks tied the game at seven. It was the closest the Seahawks came in trying to trump the Chiefs, but the luck didn't last. No matter how impressive their special teams were, the Seahawks' offense and defense couldn't replicate the success.

The Chiefs have thus far defeated each of their three opponents from the NFC West (San Francisco, Arizona, and Seattle) by at least 18 points. Hopefully, the magic continues when the team travels to St. Louis on December 19. The victory on Sunday stretched Kansas City's winning streak against the NFC West since 2002 to nine regular season games.

This Chiefs team has shown that they've rebounded after a rocky stretch that spanned the end of October to mid-November. A major factor in this turnaround is the recent breakout from their quarterback. Matt Cassel has now thrown 22 touchdown passes with only four interceptions on the year. He'll be outshined by other signal callers in the AFC such as Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady, but Cassel's beginning to turn heads not only in Chiefs Nation but the entire league.

Just last week, and for the previous twelve weeks for that matter, I've said Cassel is nothing more than a game-managing quarterback, and I will generally stick with those words. But with efforts like this, we can't forget Cassel's potential as a gunslinger. Seattle's secondary ranked 30th of 32 teams in the league entering the game, and allowed Cassel to keep them down towards the bottom of the barrel for yet another week. No matter the opponent, a win is a win for the Chiefs, and this was Cassel's 11th victory as the team's starting quarterback.

Against his former head coach at the University of Southern California (now-Seahawks coach Pete Carroll), Cassel finished his third career game with four touchdowns and his second of the season. What showed most out of Cassel's effort against Seattle was how quickly he is now getting his passes off to his receivers. He had plenty of time to find his teammates down the field against a pedestrian Seahawks pass rush, but he still seemed determined to cut to the chase and get the ball down the field.

In the past few weeks, I think that's what hurt Cassel the most, especially in his effort against the Denver Broncos, where he was sacked left-and-right. Cassel will take the best of this effort into the Chiefs' rematch against the Broncos this Sunday and put this team on his shoulders as a true franchise quarterback.

On Sunday at Arrowhead Shaun Smith and the rest of his Chiefs mates get a chance to seek revenge against Kyle Orton and the Denver Broncos.
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While we shouldn't necessarily expect him to replicate his magic from Mile High two weeks ago that saw him register 469 yards and four touchdowns against the Broncos, we just might see a quarterback who is more comfortable on the field. Cassel showed us just enough composure and mobility on Sunday against Seattle that shows just why the entire franchise believes in him.

If Cassel can continue to change the plays at the line of scrimmage to success, go out of his way to make blocks for his teammates, and keep on tallying victories for his team, things will continue to look good for the Chiefs heading down the stretch.

With the San Diego Chargers now slowly creeping up behind Kansas City in the AFC West division, now's the time when the Chiefs need everything they can get from Matt Cassel.

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