Cassel and Bowe Show True Grit

KANSAS CITY, MO - The Coen Brothers may have had the number one movie at the box office this weekend. But the best picture show in the NFL resides in Kansas City. And it feature a pair of players that have showed tremendous tenacity and perseverance.

And those starring roles are courtesy of Quarterback Matt Cassel and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Their play on the weekends has taken this team from a bad ‘B' movie to one that could don each the NFL's version of an Academy Award, a free trip to Hawaii in February. But before that stop, the two men no Chiefs fan wanted any part of have taken this team from a 4-12 patsy a year ago, to division champion this season.

Despite an appendectomy, a brief benching, and a dual tongue lashing from Head Coach Todd Haley and assistant coach Mo Carthon, nothing could damper Cassel's dismantling of the Tennessee Titans 34-14 on Sunday.

"It was a great all around win for us" said Cassel, "(it) puts us one step closer to our goal, which is to win the AFC West"

As we would find out a few hours later, the Cincinnati Bengals gave the Chiefs a late Christmas present when they knocked the San Diego chargers out of crown contention but Cassel spoke as if clinching the division title was merely a formality.

"It's a huge accomplishment. It's a huge turnaround for us being 4-12 and going through the year we did last year. I know there was a ton of adversity and all of those things were difficult to handle at times. But, to be here with 10 wins and one win from a division championship, it is remarkable to say the least," he said.

On Sunday, Cassel was simply outstanding finishing the game with 314 yards passing, three touchdowns, a 128.8 passer rating, and a whole lot of love from the Chiefs Nation.

Part of the reason for Cassel's outstanding performance on Sunday was due to the reemergence of wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.

Minus an assist from Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon on an early fourth quarter interception from back-up Brodie Croyle, Bowe was nearly flawless on Sunday which is stark contrast to his performance the past several weeks.

But it wasn't just Bowe's six receptions for 153 yards, nor his 75 yard touchdown catch that sealed the Chiefs victory. No, it's the little things that often go unnoticed that is transitioning Dwayne Bowe into one of the NFL's marquee wide receivers.

As has been said many times this season, Bowe is a different player than the one who showed up to Chiefs training camp in 2007 under the watchful eyes of HBO's Hard Knocks.

Dwayne Bowe has come a long ways since his Hard Knocks days.
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"I think Dwayne has done a tremendous job this season of becoming a leader of that receivers group. You can see him in meetings being attentive and really understanding what we are trying to get accomplished, and then also practicing well throughout the week," Cassel said of his playmaking receiver.

"I think that a big part of his success is the way that he prepares and the way he practices because he's done an outstanding job all year of going out and giving 110 percent effort in practice. Everybody always says, ‘Practice and preparation become game reality.' And, that's really been the case for Dwayne this year."

This year may be ending with a bang that could include a pro bowl appearance for Bowe and that's a far cry from those that wrote him off before the season began.

And much like Cassel, with the ability to fight through adversity both players have warmed themselves to a tentative fan base and nobody is more deserving of some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Heck, the verdict was split 50/50 just five months ago when Cassel opened the season with with a quarterback rating of 57.5. But Cassel has overcome some shoddy play through the first quarter of the season to become one of the elite NFL quarterbacks.

Still that doesn't make him immune to his head coach. So the question is why did Haley bench Cassel near the end of third quarter on Sunday?

"I have a great respect for the Tennessee Titans," Haley said. "It was not a situation where we thought we had the game in hand or anything like that" said Haley after the game about Cassel's brief absence from the huddle. "We just had to get something cleaned up strategically with Matt, what we weren't able to get done during the change of possession"

Given the tight lipped nature of the organization as a whole my guess is that we will never truly know what Haley "cleaned up" but my guess is he was sending a message; not only to Cassel, but to the rest of the offense as well.

The Chiefs began the third quarter playing sluggish uninspired football. In Haley's view, no lead is safe. But victories are no longer good enough for Haley's play off bound team. Haley sent a message of accountability to his team and he sent that message to the man that leads them.

Although toughness and determination has gotten Cassel, Bowe, and the rest of this Chiefs offense a ticket to the playoffs, it's going to take much more than that to continue that flight all the way to Dallas for Super Bowl 44.

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