Bowe Should Be Starting

It's time for the Chiefs to end their silly game with Dwayne Bowe.

In case you were actually doing something remotely entertaining and missed Saturday night's Chiefs game, here's the shocking news from Arrowhead Stadium – Dwayne Bowe didn't start the game with the rest of KC's first-team offense. Nope, the Chiefs trotted out a couple of NFL spares – Terrance Copper and Devard Darling - to complement Matt Cassel, Larry Johnson and Branden Albert.

The results, as predicted, were disappointing.

After zipping a precise 12-yard timing pattern to Copper on his first pass, Cassel's second perfect throw was dropped (by Copper). Darling's lone touch came on a doomed slip screen on a later third down. In about a half of football, Copper and Darling combined for two catches, 15 yards, and didn't come close to scaring a defensive back or proving they actually deserve their "starting" jobs.

We probably shouldn't be surprised. Both are little more than career special teams players. Copper is wearing his fourth NFL jersey in seven years. Darling spent the first half of last season in Kansas City failing miserably to beat single coverage despite the fact Bowe and Tony Gonzalez were drawing defenders.

Why were Copper and Darling starting? Supposedly, it was a motivational ploy by Coach Todd Haley, who wouldn't mind turning Bowe into Larry Fitzgerald, the Pro Bowl receiver who flourished under his guidance with the Arizona Cardinals a year ago. It's no secret Bowe has been dropping passes in training camp.

Bowe didn't drop any passes Saturday night.

He got open, latched onto the ball with his incredibly strong hands again and again, and generally looked like someone who was determined to fight his way back into the starting lineup. After catching a simple hook pattern to start his night, Bowe sold out his body on KC's next drive, diving to secure a 14-yard gain, setting up a Ryan Succop field goal.

Working with Brodie Croyle and a handful of second and third-string Chiefs, Bowe later made an incredible leaping catch down the right sideline for 18 yards. His night concluded after five catches, 70 yards, and nary a dropped pass for Haley to fume over.

Bowe didn't appear to be a receiver who wanted to pout over his third-team sentence, ala Randy Moss. He looked motivated and hungry to prove himself. He gave Haley exactly what he was looking for – focus, flawless hands and first downs.

Did I mention all of this production came during the middle of a torrential downpour that resulted in fumbled snaps and sloppy, slippery play all over the field?

As Chiefs color man Len Dawson pointed out in the broadcast booth, "That's pretty good for a third stringer."

Bowe's no third stringer, or even a backup for that matter. His performance Saturday night, and the lack thereof from Copper and Darling, should be reason enough for Haley to return his starting job immediately. Bowe might drop a couple of passes this week in practice, but demoting him again, for next Saturday's game in Minnesota against the Vikings would be silly and counterproductive.

There's zero reason for the Chiefs to delay developing chemistry between Bowe and Cassel. Considering their other options at receiver – none of whom showed much Saturday night – playing more mind games with Bowe is downright dangerous if the team has any plans at all to move the ball consistently this season. Getting Bowe and Cassel on the same page should be preseason priority number one from here on out.

Do we even want to think about what happens next week if no one is open while Jared Allen closes on Cassel's blindside? And why even risk your best receiver's health by putting him on the field deep into the third quarter of a meaningless game? You're just asking for trouble at that point.

Just imagine if Bowe had caught the slant Copper dropped on KC's first possession against the Texans. Maybe the offense finishes that drive out with a score, giving the fans something to cheer about other than a 48-yard field goal at the halftime gun. Maybe no one is left wondering if Herm Edwards was upstairs, calling plays for the Chiefs in the first half.

Hopefully Bowe isn't wondering about his starting job Monday morning.

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