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Old 08-22-2009, 10:05 AM   Topic Starter
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Cassel Succeeds Despite Chiefs


Now you know why Scott Pioli decided Matt Cassel was worth a second-round draft choice and $63 million of Hunt money. He can make the best out of a horrible situation and look pretty calm doing it, as if it was business as usual. You saw it Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings.

Honestly, I hate to impugn the 10 other Chiefs who lined up with Cassel for a half. Football is the ultimate team game. But thereís no question about it Ė Cassel was the driving force. He was the engine that made the offense go, that directed two scoring drives.

The rest of his teammates? They tried to throw a monkey wrench into the machine more often than not.

On the first play from scrimmage, tight end Sean Ryan horribly blew a block on Minnesotaís Ray Edwards while Cassel carried out a play fake. But the Chiefs got a first down because Cassel had both the presence of mind to avoid Edwards and the burst to outrun Chad Greenway to the sticks.

One snap later, Mike Goff let Kevin Williams blow right past him and straight into his quarterbackís face. Not only did Cassel dodge Williams, he ducked under a Fred Evans tackle attempt and managed to ignore Ben Leber sprinting at him, hitting tight end Jake OíConnell for a first down. Oh, why was OíConnell open? Because Leber left coverage to try and stop the scrambling quarterback.

At this point, the Chiefs were past midfield with a promising drive going. After a dive play was stuffed and Jamaal Charles fumbled, any hope of a score was completely snuffed out, of course. Cassel can't do everything.

On the Chiefsí next drive, Cassel fired a pass down the field towards Dwayne Bowe. It was fairly obvious the ball was thrown right where it needed to be Ė had it been thrown further to the outside, it was an easy interception for Antoine Winfield. But Bowe slowed his route coming out of the break and the ball sailed through the window, in and out of the hands of a safety backing up the play. Snaps like that may be why Bowe still hasnít started a game this season.

But thatís OK Ė on the next play, Cassel was forced to run again, this time because of Edwards (Barry Richardsonís man). The progression of the play was blown, but as he ran, Cassel not only kept his eyes downfield, he sucked up the coverage and hit Bowe in stride for another first down.

There was some issue on this play as to whether or not Cassel was over the line of scrimmage. Perhaps he was. But whatís good enough for John Elway is good enough for another guy wearing #7. A few plays later, after Cassel ran around and completed another pass, the Chiefs got on the board with a field goal.

Later, the Chiefs had a third-and-15 after Devard Darling dropped a pass and Barry Richardson was flagged for a false start (two more monkey wrenches). The Vikings pushed the pocket right into Casselís face, but he acted as if he were standing alone in the middle of the Metrodome and hit Charles in stride for a first down. Of course the drive was doomed by a penalty and two sacks on the next series of downs. Cassel canít do everything.

Alright, Iíll guess Iíll give credit to Larry Johnson for an 18-yard burst and Quinten Lawrence for a 14-yard end around. Itís amazing what happens when the Chiefs run the ball a little Ė Cassel leads a touchdown drive.

We probably shouldnít be too hard on the Chiefsí offensive line and running backs. After all, it was just a week ago that the Vikings got to Peyton Manning and the Colts in the worst way. Manning was sacked three times in five dropbacks. The Colts didnít crack the end zone and totaled just 142 yards of offense for the entire game.

What the Chiefs did Ė or rather, what Cassel did, mostly - looks impressive by comparison. Think about this Ė what happens if Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle or Tyler Thigpen are under center? Most likely, Huard curls up into a little ball as Minnesotaís pass rush crushes him like a tsunami and Croyle leaves the game after something else breaks. Thigpen, while desperately looking for Tony Gonzalez, would likely escape only to chuck the ball into the ground, at a fan or a defensive back.

I could go on, talk about how Cassel was constantly turning his head, going through his progressions like a robot and throwing with consistent accuracy, but you get the idea. Itís nothing new, however. Itís all on tape, 16 games of it, from a year ago in New England. Itís the same player, doing the same things, leading his team down the field and into the end zone.

Oh, and speaking of New England, there was one other monkey wrench in the machine Friday night Ė the Chiefs placed Randy Moss and Wes Welker on their inactive list. Cassel looked totally helpless without them, didnít he?

Richardsonís Opportunity

I could probably write an entire column about the disappointing play of right tackle Barry Richardson, but a blurb will do for now. Rarely, if ever, do you actually see an attached blurb in this space, but this is a special situation.

In River Falls this past week, Richardson received extensive snaps with the first-team offensive line. The Chiefs, like most of us, apparently arenít huge Damion McIntosh fans, and knowing the youth, size and talent Richardson brings to the table, decided to give him an opportunity by starting him against the Vikings.

Iím no offensive line coach, but itís doubtful Richardson impressed his too much Friday night. The Chiefs were counting on him to be the point man as they ran to the strong side in the first half, but all you really have to do is look at the box score Ė apart from one burst from Larry Johnson, KCís running game ran into a brick wall and fell down, dazed.

When the Chiefs ran a stretch play on Johnsonís first carry, Richardson couldnít seal Ray Edwards to the inside. Guess who dumped LJ for a two-yard loss? Edwards. Later, NFL Networkís Mike Mayock commented on how Richardsonís inability to pin Edwards to the inside made Johnson cut a run back up inside, into pursuit.

In pass protection, it was pretty clear Richardson struggled with Edwardsí speed. Cassel constantly had to step up in the pocket to avoid pressure to his right. But Edwards, who is only 268 pounds, even managed to embarrass Richardson with pure brute strength.

On the play in question, the Chiefs were in third and long, with an empty backfield. After setting up well initially, Richardson went flying and landed on his side after one well-timed shove from Edwards. Fortunately for Richardson, his quarterback was throwing the ball as this happened.

There were other things to dislike Ė Richardson had a false start, and looked a little slow getting off the ball on certain snaps. Immediately after Richardson was replaced by McIntosh in the second quarter, Johnson ripped off an 18-yard gain and the Chiefs scored a touchdown a few plays later.

Gee, I wonder why?

What happens if Richardson has to block Shawne Merriman? Yikes.
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