From Arrowhead Stadium
Among NFL quarterbacks, Matt Cassel is not known for his mobility.
By no means is he a statue that can’t move. But he’s far from one of those passers who can provide his offense with opportunity through his legs. Going into Sunday’s game against Miami, Cassel had run 14 times for 45 yards. That was an average of two runs per game for a little more than six yards.
Sometimes, a quarterback has to do what a quarterback has to do, and against the Dolphins, Cassel had to run, and run, and run. He had to do it if he wanted to stay in a vertical position. The Miami pass rush was intent on having him horizontal.
“We knew this was going to be a major test,” head coach Todd Haley said of the Miami defense. “They’ve got a bunch of guys that can bring it and they’re not afraid to bring additional players. (Defensive coordinator) Mike Nolan does a terrific job of disguising what they are doing.”
The Dolphins had five sacks of Cassel in 44 passing plays, or basically one every nine times Cassel went back to throw, he ended up on the ground.
But that doesn’t really cover the entire waterfront of how bad that pressure was. Cassel ran the ball nine times in the game. That’s nine times when he was supposed to be throwing, but instead was running away from trouble. That’s nine runs, and those five sacks. That’s 14 passing plays where the ball was not thrown.
“You go out there and play the game and sometimes that happens,” Cassel said of the pressure from the pass rush. “They have a good pass rush and we knew that coming in. It came up where I had to get outside of the pocket a little bit more than I had in the past.”
Since he became a starting quarterback, he’s on average run the ball 3.3 times in those 52 starts. Those nine rushing attempts equaled a career high; he did it previously in a 2008 game against Buffalo when he was still in New England.
“That’s on us,” said LT Branden Albert, speaking for the offensive line. “Our guy (Cassel) shouldn’t be running around out there like he was today. That’s no good. We have to be better.”
Invariably three things happen when a quarterback starts getting away from pass rush pressure and ends up running around. First, his completion percentage goes down. Second, interceptions go up. Three, he ends up being carted off the field due to injury.
Cassel fell victim to No. 1, as he completed just 51.3 percent of his passes, far below his season average that is now 60.7 percent after eight games. Luckily for him, he did not throw an interception and he was able to walk to the locker room under his own power.
“Today, I think offensively we just never got into a rhythm,” said Cassel. “Our whole team didn’t get into a rhythm. They beat us in all three phases. It’s one of those situations where we are going to have to go back in and review the film and get back to work.”