Cassel Returns Just in Time

Late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, Thomas Jones' two-yard touchdown plunge sealed the Chiefs 27-13 victory over the Rams. And when the play was over, he handed the ball to the teams' leader, Quarterback Matt Cassel, who slammed the ball to the turf that put the final exclamation on his gutsy performance.

With so much attention on player safety in the NFL this season, some questioned whether Cassel should even be allowed to play. But after getting the green light hours before the game, he was under center and back in charge of the Chiefs offense.

And even though to date, he's had an All Pro type of season, he wasn't at his best against the Rams. He completed just 15 of 29 passes, threw an interception (thanks to the midfield collision of wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and tight end Tony Moeaki). But he was able to redeem himself by throwing a touchdown midway through the second quarter.

Still few in the NFL, let alone mortal men like you and I, would be capable of fathoming what Cassel did on Sunday. Time and time again he stood his ground in the pocket, showed plenty of zip on his passes, and even was nimble enough to fearlessly (or foolishly) rush six times for 17 yards.

This season few on the roster have shouldered more expectations and have had to overcome more hurdles this year than Cassel. We've openly discussed my reservations on Cassel since training camp, but after displaying superior leadership qualities like he did on Sunday, there is no doubt in my mind that Cassel is the quarterback of the now and the future.

And looking ahead with their field general back in command, the Chiefs' offense as a whole came back to life against the Rams. Though Cassel wasn't as sharp as he was before the surgery, he did more than enough to make everyone forget last week's hideous offensive output against the Chargers.

With Cassel able to complete passes, the Chiefs rushed for 211 yards against the Rams. Though their signature back, Jamaal Charles was slowed by leg cramps, he led the team with 126 yards rushing. His 80-yard back breaker late in the game set up Jones' fourth quarter touchdown. And it was Jones, who carried the ball 22 times that did most of the grunt work to keep Charles fresh late in the game.

With the running game back to form, Cassel was able to utilize more play action passes and spread the ball to eight different receivers. And that was in part do to the incredible job the Chiefs offensive line did giving him time to throw the ball.

It's clear they were feeding off Cassel's gutsy performance. Sure they gave up three sacks but two of them were really tackles behind the line of scrimmage after Cassel tried to run for positive yards.

But it was amazing that Cassel was able to return to the starting lineup so soon after his surgery. Although Cassel's stats probably won't garner any league MVP votes, it appears that at seasons end he'll be the Chiefs most valuable player.

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