Can Bowe Save The Chiefs?

When we last saw Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs appeared to be turning the corner.

It was November 15, and Kansas City had not only beaten the Oakland Raiders 16-10, it might have been their most complete game of the season. The Chiefs threw for over 200 yards, ran for over 100 and Bowe was in the middle of it all, catching six passes for 91 yards, his second-best total in 2009.

Even without Bowe, the upswing continued a week later against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a thrilling 27-24 win. It might have been Matt Cassel's best game this season, as he threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. At the time, it appeared as if the Chiefs perhaps didn't need Bowe as much as some had previously thought.

Three weeks later, that hypothesis has been smashed to bits. Based on blowouts against the Chargers and Broncos, and a disappointing game against bottom-feeder Buffalo, not only do the Chiefs need Dwayne Bowe, they are desperate for him. If there is any hope that Kansas City can re-locate that corner they appeared to be turning a month ago and finish what they started, Bowe has to be a big part of it.

The numbers the Chiefs have posted this season bear out that when Bowe is on the field, KC's passing game is markedly different. Without him, Cassel's production drops by over 30 yards (197.4 to 164.8). Even more shocking is how his touchdown-to-interception ratio turns 180 degrees.

With Bowe, Cassel has thrown 10 touchdowns against six interceptions in eight games. That's quite a stark contrast when compared to three touchdowns against seven interceptions when KC's quarterback is Bowe-less. It all adds up to nearly a 10-point swing in quarterback rating, not to mention two wins against one.

The Bowe phenomenon goes much deeper than cumulative stats. Without him, in games against the Eagles and Broncos, the Chiefs posted their two worst outings in the passing game, as Cassel threw for just 90 and 84 yards. Along the same lines, two of Cassel's three lowest-rated games in 2009 - against Denver and Buffalo the last two weeks - have come without Bowe in the lineup.

Bowe's best games this season came against Washington and Oakland, and the Chiefs won both. His second and third-best games? Narrow losses to the Cowboys and Jaguars.

The message is clear – as Bowe goes, so the Chiefs go. Even so, there's a statistical indication that perhaps Bowe isn't capable of being KC's Superman. Because what good is he, really, if his offense isn't even averaging so much as a full point more when he's in the lineup?

That's where the numbers end up. For all that extra production in the passing game, Bowe's presence only adds up to 14.9 points per game, against 14.2 when he's missing. That doesn't really inspire much confidence that things will change when he returns this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

Can we find some other Bowe-centric ray of hope? Perhaps, in the odd timing of Bowe exiting KC's starting lineup just as Jamaal Charles was emerging as KC's feature back. Charles ripped off his first 100-yard game of the season in Bowe's last game, against Oakland. Was it coincidence that the Chiefs had one of their more productive days on offense as Charles' emergence coincided with Bowe's last game, which just happened to be one of his best?

There's an argument to be made that with Chris Chambers drawing more deep coverage these days and Charles providing a legitimate threat in the backfield, Bowe's presence as a possession receiver is the only element lacking for the Chiefs' offense to reach its full potential. At least, for this season, because offensive line help isn't on the way until the spring.

So, if you were looking for a glimmer of hope as the Chiefs play out their last three games, that's it. There's some proof that Dwayne Bowe is just what they need. It's been a long season, but there's still time to make progress. Maybe Bowe can be the catalyst.

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