From FedEx Field
There have been times over the last nine months where Dwayne Bowe had swallowed so much junk from Todd Haley that he thought he would explode.
Almost from his first day on the Chiefs campus, Haley was after Bowe about his training, his weight, his personality, his hands, his attitude, his focus, his understanding of the offense; to Bowe it seemed like the head coach didn’t like him. Into his third season in the NFL, Bowe couldn’t understand how he’d survived so long by doing so many things wrong.
There were moments when it would all bubble up inside of him and he’d pondered dark thoughts about his coach and his future in the game.
Yet, there was Bowe on Sunday afternoon just moments after his teammates had given Haley a Gatorade shower, standing there laughing with his tormentor and congratulating him on his first victory as an NFL head coach.
“He knows what it takes; he built Larry (Fitzgerald) up to be a great receiver,” said Bowe. “I see it; I know it and I’m trying to get there.
“I’m on board.”
Just a few moments before Bowe was celebrating the victory with his coach, he was getting another earful from Haley. Late in the game the Chiefs offense had the ball and they were forcing the Redskins to use their timeouts. QB Matt Cassel fooled the defense completely when he faked a handoff to Larry Johnson and then took off on a bootleg around the right side.
The play was set up perfectly and the only person between Cassel and a touchdown was CB DeAngelo Hall. But Bowe was on that side of the field. If he executes his block, Cassel scores; if he does not, then Hall makes the tackle. Well, Hall made the tackle and even though the Chiefs got another Ryan Succop FG out of the possession, Haley wanted to chew on Bowe’s ear for a bit.
“He told me to forget about it and go onto the next play,” said Bowe. “He said his piece.”
Bowe sat in front of a locker in the cramped FedEx Field visitor’s dressing room with a hood pulled over his head. Approached from behind, it looked like Bowe was trying to hide. In a sense he was. In this season he’s learned that what he thought he knew, he really didn’t have any idea and the trials and tribulations that were imposed on him by Haley were done for a reason.
“Dwayne has come to understand that we demand a lot of him because we think he can do a lot,” said Haley. “He’s a talented player. He could be one of the better receivers in the league. But you don’t just say that, you don’t just put that on a t-shirt and advertise. You have to work, you have to be mentally tough, you have to be in shape and you have to be smart.”
Bowe was a big part of Sunday’s victory over the Redskins because he finally understands that while he thought he was mentally tough, he was not. And while he thought he was in shape, he was not. And he thought he knew the game, and he did not.
He’s come to understand that he didn’t know what he didn’t know.
“I understand what he’s trying to do,” said Bowe. “I didn’t always understand that. I do now. ”
He caught six passes for 109 yards, including some big catches in the second half when he had four catches for 78 yards. Bowe and Cassel combined on pass plays of 32, 20, 18 and 16 yards. Those were four of the five longest plays the Chiefs offense produced against Washington.
The 32-yarder was huge, coming with less than two minutes to play. Bowe caught a pass on the left side short, and then he took off down the sideline before finally being pushed out of bounds at the Washington nine-yard line. It really snuffed any hopes or ideas that the Redskins had of getting a final shot at winning the game.
There’s no question that QB Matt Cassel feels very comfortable throwing the ball to Bowe. Press box statistics said that Bowe was the target of a Cassel pass 14 times in the game. Out of 32 attempts, that’s a healthy dose of looking for No. 82. No other receiver was the target more than five times (WR Mark Bradley.)
“You’d have to ask him (Cassel) why he threw to me so much,” said Bowe. “He must have liked the matchup. He told me during practice that on third down, he was going to come to me. They play a lot of cover one (man-to-man on the outside receivers) and that’s what he was looking for.
“The timing is starting to come together.”
Somewhere lurking under that guy in the hood is the bubbly, effervescent Dwayne Bowe. Right now, however, that part of his personal is on vacation. He’s gotten a taste of what it takes to be among the NFL elite.
“There’s no limit on what he can do,” said Haley.
Dwayne Bowe is starting to believe that, and he’s starting to take the torrent of attention from his head coach and turn it into something positive.