Stopping Cassel a Tougher Task This Time

The first time the Dolphins and Patriots met this season, outspoken linebacker Joey Porter received national attention when he simply stated that New England quarterback Matt Cassel was no Tom Brady. That was pretty obvious during the game, but Cassel isn't quite the same quarterback now that he was back in September.

On that day, the Dolphins rattled the inexperienced Cassel as Porter sacked him four times and Miami held him to 131 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 38-13 blowout at Foxboro.

Fast forward eight games and suddenly Cassel is earning league-wide respect with huge games against Denver and most recently the Jets when he became the first quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw for 400 yards and rush for 62 more, albeit in a losing cause last Thursday.

Other than saying the Patriots are more "comfortable" with Cassel, Porter has toned down his remarks this week. But fellow Miami linebacker Channing Crowder added his two cents.

"He's a starter now. Before they just threw him in there. He really didn't know his reads, didn't know all his check-downs. You could tell he didn't look comfortable on the field and didn't look good out there playing. Now, he's done things; even though he lost to the Jets, he had a good game, throwing for 400 yards and he ran for about 60, an amazing game. He's playing better ball so we got to step up to the plate and play better defense to stop him," Crowder said.

Dolphins nose tackle Jason Ferguson was also impressed after watching game tape of the Jets-Patriots overtime thriller.

"He's not as young as he was when he played us. It's Cassel now, not the replacement for Brady," Ferguson said.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said the biggest change between the Patriots from their Sept. 21 meeting to today has been Cassel.

"He's using a lot more of his people ... he's spreading it around. That means he's feeling a little bit more comfortable, just like our guy throwing it to eight or nine guys. ... (What) really jumps off the film at you is he's starting to figure out that he can hurt you with his legs," Sparano said. "He is starting to make plays himself and the people around him are becoming more comfortable."

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