As we will see, not only did Cassel rebound in his second start against the Dolphins – an example of the steady improvement he showed as the season wore on – he finally hooked up with Randy Moss, something he failed to do in a loss a week earlier against the New York Jets. He also thrived against a tough Dolphins' defense without the benefit of an overly productive running game. In fact, the Patriots came out passing on 13 of their first 16 plays, showing great trust in their young quarterback.
Final Stat line: 30-43, 415 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT, 14 RYDS, 1 RTD
1st quarter – 14:17 – 1st-and-10
Sometimes the simplest short throw can be a great play, as is the case here. The Patriots spread the field with five wide receivers, and Cassel's first read is down the field. After a quick pump fake, pressure from Jason Ferguson forces him out of the pocket and he looks to run.
At least that's what Channing Crowder thought was going to happen. As the linebacker flys into Cassel's face, the quarterback pulls up and flips an off-balance throw to Wes Welker, who turns the short pass into a 14-yard gain. This is a particularly nice play because previously, Cassel had reportedly had an issue with taking his eyes off receivers when pressure got in his face. Dan Dierdorf praises Cassel for his "great awareness."
1st quarter – 7:22- 2nd-and-10
This play is a great example of why a box score can't always be trusted. Despite an interception on this throw, Cassel makes a dynamite throw. He steps up in the pocket, showing his good footwork once again, and shows off his sneaky arm strength, firing an absolute laser down the right side of the field toward Randy Moss.
Despite tight coverage, Cassel places the ball where only Moss has a chance to catch it – off his right shoulder, squeezed between the sideline and the receiver. The ball hits Moss right in the hands, but unfortunately, ricochets up into the air and is intercepted by the closing safety, Renaldo Hill. This is a good play from Cassel unfortunately ruined by Moss.
1st quarter – 5:11- 2nd-and-10
There's no greater challenge for young quarterbacks than learning how to read coverage quickly, but Matt Cassel makes it look easy on this play. The Patriots are in five-wide again, and after a quick glance to his left, Cassel knows exactly where he's going with the football – back to Randy Moss.
Cassel sets his feet and throws a beautiful rainbow of a pass down the right sideline, about 25 yards, to a well-covered Moss, who is practically tight roping the sideline. This is a difficult pass to complete because of the coverage, but Cassel makes sure Jason Allen has zero chance to intercept the ball. The pass is thrown slightly high, but because of Moss' unique receiving skills, he extends one arm into the air and snatches it for a 16-yard gain.
1st quarter – 4:20- 3rd-and-8
Yeremiah Bell couldn't stop Cassel from scoring late in the second quarter.
Alan Diaz - AP
Not only does Cassel manage to elude Miami's Randy Starks, but he throws sidearm to Wes Welker and hits him right in the hands, near the first down marker. Welker comes extremely close to gaining a first down.
This is an important completion because it allows the Patriots to convert a fourth-and-short on the next down (a tough, six-yard Cassel sneak), and eventually score on Cassel's eight-yard touchdown run, an improvised quarterback draw (another example of his mobility and quick decision making).
2nd quarter – 4:27 – 1st-and-10
If you doubt Cassel's ability to throw at awkward angles, just watch this play. The Patriots have a screen pass called, and the Dolphins are blitzing, but Channing Crowder comes up the middle untouched so fast that Cassel barely has time to fake a look downfield. Crowder is on him almost immediately.
A fraction of a second from being sacked, Cassel coolly and accurately flips the ball right into the hands of Kevin Faulk as he is driven to the turf. Not only is a sack avoided, the Pats pick up seven yards and go on to score a touchdown (Cassel to Moss) to lead at the half.
3rd quarter – 7:35 – 3rd-and-10
The Dolphins send seven men after the quarterback and the Patriots only have six in protection. It's third and long, New England is trailing by four points and Will Allen is barreling right toward Matt Cassel. What happens?
Cassel sets his feet, knowing he's going to get drilled by two defenders, and unleashes a dart toward Randy Moss, who is actually well covered over the middle of the field. Cassel's pass is thrown slightly high but in front of Moss, who extends his long arms upward and catches it easily for a first down. Not only did Cassel quickly read the situation, he knew where to go with the football and made a decent throw under extreme duress.
3rd quarter – 6:19 – 1st-and-goal
Great quarterbacks have an ability to make things look easy, which is what Matt Cassel does on this fade route to Randy Moss for another touchdown. It really does look remarkably easy – Cassel simply takes a step back, lobs the ball into the corner of the end zone in one smooth motion, and Moss catches it for the score.
But when the ball is thrown, Moss has not beaten the coverage. Jason Allen is standing a good four yards in front of Moss, who breaks for the corner as Cassel puts the ball up.
The throw is placed perfectly over Moss' shoulder and he doesn't even have to break stride as it arcs into the back of the end zone with plenty of room for the receiver to tap his feet down. The Patriots take the lead back. This throw should be of particular importance to Chiefs fans, because they've not seen a quarterback in Kansas City complete it consistently in years.
4th quarter – 10:24 – 3rd-and-10
Cassel put it where only Moss could get it.
Doug Benc - Getty
Cassel's initial read is off to the left side of the field. Since it's covered, he progresses back to his right, sets his feet and throws another pretty pass with almost perfect form. Gaffney is covered well by Jason Allen, but the ball is placed perfectly on his right shoulder and thrown with enough velocity that the defensive back can't swipe at it fast enough to bat it away.
4th quarter – 8:59 – 2nd-and-4
Note to NFL defensive coordinators – Randy Moss on Andre Goodman is probably a mismatch, especially without safety help. This is something Matt Cassel apparently also recognizes, because he looks deep for the jump ball to Moss almost immediately. The 29-yard touchdown makes Cassel only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to post back-to-back 400-yard games.
The most interesting part of this play is the game situation – second and short. The Patriots didn't need to throw long, were within field goal range, and Cassel could have settled for a short pass to move the chains. But he showed rare aggressiveness for such an inexperienced quarterback. He went for the kill, and put New England up by 10. You wonder if Herm Edwards would have wanted Cassel as his quarterback.
3rd quarter – 0:12- 1st-and-10
Good quarterbacks complete routine throws to wide open receivers almost every time. On this play, the simplest of passes is thrown off target, perhaps negating a big gain.
The Patriots run a slip screen to Randy Moss, and have blockers out in front. All Cassel has to do is throw to a practically stationary target and there are yards to be gained. But the pass is thrown too far out in front of Moss, so far that even his long arms have difficulty extending far enough to graze the football. Dan Dierdorf calls it "way off."
4th quarter – 7:53 – 2nd-and-2
As good as Cassel's first jump ball to Moss was, this one is just as poor. With the Patriots attempting to bury the Dolphins, they inexplicably leave Goodman alone on Moss again, and Cassel flicks another lob toward him. Unfortunately the ball is thrown so high and behind Moss that it would have taken a superman effort to reel it in. Any receiver not named Randy Moss also would have been helpless on this play.
4th quarter – 7:47 – 3rd-and-2
It's interesting that the Patriots even attempted a pass on third and short with a 10-point lead, but it might as well have been a run. Cassel barely looks downfield as the blitz comes and tries to run instead of attempting a pass. He only succeeds in running into a blitzing defender.
The concern on this play is why was there a need to take a sack? You risk a fumble when you can just as easily chuck the ball out the back of the end zone. However, this is a rather small nitpick in what was an incredible game for Matt Cassel. There wasn't much to be negative over.
Next time on Cassel Chronicles: Matt Cassel hosts Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in New England.