The Chiefs were down early after the Colts, led by young quarterback Curtis Painter, got out to a 17-0 lead late into the second quarter. But as we have seen from Cassel in the past, when his back is up against the wall, he typically responds.
Cassel connected on a 41-yard catch-and-run with receiver Dwayne Bowe with just a little over five minutes left in the second quarter. Four minutes later, Cassel would fire another bullet to receiver Steve Breaston in the front corner of the end zone as the Chiefs would rally to enter the half down 24-14.
The Colts would only accumulate 61 more offensive yards in the second half but the Chiefs were just getting started as they would post 14 unanswered points after halftime.
Given the Colts' porous rush defense and their bookend defensive ends, Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, most thought the Chiefs would play it conservative and avoid getting Cassel roughed up. For most of the first half, that is exactly what KC's game plan was. But when the Chiefs fell behind, with their options limited, Chiefs head coach Todd Haley again took the collar off of Cassel.
After a sideline spat last week against the Minnesota Vikings, Cassel and Haley had a much publicized argument on the sidelines. Cassel was caught referring to his head coach as a scared cat, a commentary on the Chiefs' conservative play calling.
No coach wants his intestinal fortitude publicly questioned by his quarterback but even Haley has admitted he loves for his players to speak up when they feel strongly about something. Cassel stood his ground last week but Haley again showed a lack of confidence in game planning for the Colts this week.
The Chiefs' offensive staff again handcuffed Cassel until they had no choice but to pass the ball, down three possessions early. With the way Cassel responded it will be hard to keep the ball out of his hands heading forward.
But that's not to say other pieces of the Chiefs' offense didn't make a push for more game plan consideration.
Facing Mathis and Freeney, the Chiefs' offensive line did enough to keep Cassel upright. He took some lumps Sunday, but had enough time to throw on most of his dropbacks.
Bowe and Breaston had a combined 11 catches for 178 yards and four touchdowns, which will create several new wrinkles for upcoming defensive coordinators heading forward.
Determined Cassel haters will say he benefitted from a career day by running back Jackie Battle and Haley will point to the yards after catch generated by KC's receivers, but Cassel deserves the game ball for willing his team to victory. He showed the ability to lift his team, something we've rarely seen from him in three years with the Chiefs.
The old football saying goes: a player is never as good as his best game and never as bad as his worst. Sunday, Cassel was somewhere in between. The time for conservative football ended when he showed he could be more than a game manager. What the Chiefs have to find out is whether he can do that each and every week.
Up to this point in Cassel's career, Haley has not given him that opportunity. If what we saw from Cassel against the Colts becomes the status quo, the Matt Cassel reign in Kansas City is sure to crush the dreams of even the most devout Suck for Luck campaigners.
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Has Cassel changed?
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