How Long Can He Survive? … Friday Cup O’Chiefs

Matt Cassel stood at the podium in the room where he holds his weekly gab with the media and he didn’t look any worse for wear.

He was waterlogged from a practice outside in the rain on Thursday afternoon and those off to the side of where he was speaking could see the wrap that he still wears on his left knee.

Funny, but he did not look like a piñata.

But that’s how opposing pass rushes have been treating him for the last three weeks: like a living, breathing crash dummy. Cassel has been sacked 14 times in the last three games: five by the Giants, four by the Cowboys and five last Sunday by the Redskins. In five games, he’s gone down 19 times.

And that does not include all the other times he’s been knocked to the ground. In the last five games, press-box stats put that number at 39. That’s probably on the low side.

But that’s 19 sacks, 39 knockdowns, or 58 times he’s ended up in the dirt. That’s almost a dozen times per game.

How is Matt Cassel going to survive the season? Can he last 10 more games?

“Heck yeah,” Cassel said with a smile. “I’m ready to rock and roll.”

He has been rocked and he has definitely been rolled. The enthusiasm he showed in answering that question is something he’s going to need just to get out of bed in the morning. The odds are not with him surviving this continuing onslaught.

It has been intense because the Chiefs have faced the No. 4, 5, 6, 9, 13 and 24 defenses in sacks per pass play over the first six games. Lucky for Cassel, his next two games are against two of the teams with the fewest sacks: San Diego and Jacksonville.

The Chargers have just seven sacks in five games. Two of San Diego’s best pass rushers are blank: OLB Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips. In the previous three seasons, those two have combined for 57 sacks, and that’s with Merriman missing most of the ’08 season with a bum knee.

So before Cassel can get through another game, the Chiefs have to find a way to make sure Merriman-Phillips continue to have their problems. Cassel can’t afford to continue to take the pounding he’s seen. Some of the hits that come after the ball has been released are the worst.

Last Sunday against Washington, Cassel got off a pass and ended up with DT Albert Haynesworth dropping all of his 300-plus pounds right on his chest. Haynesworth drew a penalty for roughing the passer, which was a good thing because it allowed Cassel a few moments to breathe again.

“Kind of knocked the wind out of me; he hit me right in the chest with his helmet and then he fell on me,” Cassel said, again smile.

Cassel was grinning because despite the punishment he took, the Chiefs won their first game of the year, beating a wounded Washington team. “Winning cures a lot of aches and pains,” allowed head coach Todd Haley.

His head coach and teammates were all impressed by Cassel’s ability to take a licking and keep on ticking.

“I’m extremely proud of the effort and competitiveness that he puts into a game,” said Haley. “I’m excited to be around players like that. We just need to get more guys to think and act like that. I stopped the tape multiple times to point out Matt taking big time shots from 300-plus pound defenders in an effort to let the other guys know that they need to do their part.

“This guy is going to stand in and take that kind of a beating. We need everybody kind of thinking and acting like that.”

All the respect in the world will not keep Cassel vertical when facing the type of pressure he’s seen. What can be done to get him off horizontal? It’s a task where Cassel, Haley and his teammates must all contribute to solve the problem.

CASSEL – He must simply in the terms of self-preservation, start getting rid of the football faster. “In terms of self-preservation, you just go out there and play the game, you don’t really think about it while it’s happening,” said Cassel. “You just go and try to play and if you get hit, it’s part of it.”

Nice, John Wayne-type quarterback-talk from Cassel; it’s what any coach, teammate or fan would want to hear from the man who pulls the trigger on the offense. But Cassel has to wise-up or he won’t be able to play. His decision making must be faster. He has to be willing to throw away more passes.

It’s time for Cassel to help himself and understand that as Len Dawson says, most plays do not work. Sometimes a play dies and sometimes it needs to be killed.

“It’s probably one of his greatest attributes and it also haunts him a little because he wants to make a play every play,” said Haley. “I think that comes through quarterback play and the more he plays. That’s the toughest thing a quarterback has to do: decide when to pack it in when there’s no play to be had and get rid of the ball and save a sack or a hit.”

HALEY – As the offensive coordinator, the head coach has got to find ways to put Cassel in positions where when throwing the ball, he’s not getting smacked. There should be fewer five and seven-step drops and more three steps. More calls for quicker pass plays. Move the pocket; it’s something the Chiefs tried last week but with limited success. Don’t forget it; try it again, and again. Start running more bootlegs, get Cassel on the move.

No more empty backfields. Have somebody back there who can throw his body in front of that first guy crashing the pocket. Larry Johnson has improved tremendously in this area. Jamaal Charles isn’t so bad either. Even little Dantrell Savage is willing to sacrifice his body to stop the pass rusher.

In the last two games, TE Sean Ryan has caught just three passes for 38 yards. There are two reasons for that: he’s staying in to provide extra blocking and Haley has gone to some offensive sets where he’s had two backs, three wide receivers and no tight ends. Ryan should always been on the field and if he spends most of his time blocking, that’s OK.

TEAMMATES – It’s time for the offensive line to take a step forward and raise the performance level. They’ve had a tough stretch in the last month, there’s no doubt about that. If these guys truly respect their quarterback, then they need to play better.

That starts with getting the running game going. The Chiefs inability to run the ball is exposing Cassel to more hits than he should be taking. Defenses are unconcerned right now about Larry Johnson and the running game. Jamaal Charles has become a non-factor in the backfield. Maybe Kolby Smith can provide a spark when he’s activated.

Wide receivers (that’s you Dwayne Bowe) need to catch the ball in all situations. If Cassel can get the ball off, it should count for something.

All of these options must come together, or one of these times Cassel will remain horizontal.

“Hopefully I just continue to keep getting up,” said Cassel. “That’s part of my job. I have to stand in there and I have to deliver under pressure and there’s always going to be guys coming after me and trying to hit me and that’s just part of it, getting up after you’re hit and dusting yourself off and moving on to the next play.”


AFC: named Patriots QB Tom Brady offensive player of the week, Texans LB Brian Cushing defensive player of the week and Broncos WR Eddie Royal special teams player of the week.

NFC: named Saints QB Drew Brees offensive player of the week, Falcons S Thomas DeCoud defensive player of the week and Buccaneers WR Sammie Stroughter special teams player of the week.

LIONS – signed LB Vinny Ciurciu; played DE Bryan Copeland on the injured-reserve list (knee).

RAVENS – LB Omar Gaither will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury.


On October 23, 1964, the Chiefs lost 24-7 to the Patriots in a Friday night game at Fenway Park in Boston before a crowd of 27,400. The Pats scored all their points before the Chiefs finally got on the board with less than 10 seconds to play on a three-yard TD pass from QB Eddie Wilson to RB Mack Lee Hill. The Chiefs had only 189 offensive yards in the game. CB Dave Grayson had an interception for the Chiefs. Boston QB Babe Parilli threw a pair of TD passes to WR Jim Colclough.

On October 23, 1966, the Chiefs beat the Broncos 56-10 in Denver with 26,196 fans watching. It was a big afternoon for RB Bert Coan, who scored four touchdowns in the game, three on the ground and one receiving. Coan had the game’s first points on a 35-yard scoring run in the first quarter. Later in that same period TE Reg Carolan caught a two-yard TD pass from QB Len Dawson. Coan scored on runs of 18 and 19 yards, and in the fourth quarter caught a 19-yard TD pass from QB Pete Beathard. Dawson also threw a 74-yard scoring pass to WR Otis Taylor, while Beathard had a 52-yard run and RB Gene Thomas scored on an eight-yard run. Coan finished with 111 yards on 13 carries. Defensively, the Chiefs grabbed five interceptions, as S Bobby Hunt and S Johnny Robinson had two each. CB Fred Williamson had the other pick.

On October 23, 1977, the Chiefs beat the Chargers 21-16 at San Diego Stadium in front of 33,010 fans. After falling behind, the Chiefs scored a pair of fourth quarter TDs to get the victory. RB Tony Reed scored on a one-yard run and S Tim Gray scored the winning TD on a 15-yard return of a fumble by San Diego RB Rickey Young with just 2 minutes, 8 seconds to play in the game. LB Jim Lynch and S Gary Barbaro had interceptions.

On October 23, 1983, the Chiefs beat the Oilers 13-10 in overtime at the Astrodome in Houston. This was a defensive battle, as each team scored just one touchdown. The Oilers offense took a big hit w hen RB Earl Campbell had to leave the game with a pulled groin just six minutes into the action. Campbell already had 54 yards on seven carries. Houston got the first TD on a three-yard pass from QB Gifford Nielsen to RB Stan Edwards. The Chiefs tied the game up in the second quarter on a four-yard TD toss from QB Bill Kenney to TE Willie Scott. K Nick Lowery added a 31-yard FG and for Houston K Florian Kempf nailed a 32-yard FG in the fourth quarter to tie the score. Lowery had a chance to win the game in regulation, but missed a 52-yarder. Kempf missed a 42-yard FG with four seconds left. Lowery got the game winner, a 41-yard FG midway through the overtime. The Chiefs defense got an interception from FS Deron Cherry and sacks from DT Ken Kremer and LB Charles Jackson.

On October 23, 1988, the Chiefs lost to the Detroit Lions 7-6 at Arrowhead Stadium. With 66,926 fans in the stands the defenses dominated this game. The Chiefs defense forced three turnovers and had three sacks. The Lions defense forced two turnovers and had four sacks. KC’s only scores came on a pair of FGs from K Nick Lowery of 38 and 43 yards. The game’s only touchdown came on a 14-yard pass from Lions QB Rusty Hilger to WR Jeff Chadwick. The Chiefs had just 171 yards in offense. The KC defense had interceptions from CB Albert Lewis and LB Jack Del Rio.


Born on October 23, 1983 in Santa Clara, California was K Justin Medlock. He was selected in the fifth-round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of UCLA. Medlock kicked in the ’07 season opener against Houston, where he was one of two on his FG attempts, missing his first one and then making a 27-yard FG. He was released the next day and has not kicked again in the NFL. Medlock is kicking this year in the Canadian Football League for the Toronto Argonauts.

18 Responses to “How Long Can He Survive? … Friday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • October 23, 2009  - Jim Lloyd+ says:

    How come Tony G. can catch every ball near him and Bowe drops a couple / game , some perfect?
    Is this an age thing or is it possiblty mental distractions that Tony G. just simply does not have , maybe because he leave’s them off in travel time to work, & back from ?
    No,— it would not be that simple . —OR >>

  • October 23, 2009  - Harold C. says:

    I like Cassel’s optimism…..and I like his toughness….but I hope they can find a way to reduce the sacks. It’s not just because of his health either. Cassel has been decent in a bad situation. If we could just get some protection and a decent running game then he can be brilliant. If they sacrifice him in a year that holds little hope of winning anything more than 2nd or 3rd place in the division then that would be such a waste.

  • October 23, 2009  - Merwin in NY says:

    I remember a time when Joe Montana was here and he verbally ripped more then one offensive player when they dropped a ball. With Joe it didn’t matter what the play was or where it went on the field, you had a play to run and you better run it as it was drawn up. Also you needed to be ready to catch the ball even if you were not the primary receiver. That is the attitude every one on this team should have. Like every play is the one to win the superbowl. I also think when Tony G. and Otis Taylor started out in this league they also dropped a lot of passes in their first year, but Bowe needs to step up his game in that area now. I am hoping that the offensive line starts to come together as a group since we are not playing the top defenses now. We sure need to get better if we want any chance to beat those Donkey’s.

  • October 23, 2009  - ThunderChief says:

    Having more success on the early downs and staying away from all those third and longs will do wonders for the sack totals going down.

  • October 23, 2009  - MattMac44 says:

    “I’m excited to be around players like that. We just need to get more guys to think and act like that. I stopped the tape multiple times to point out Matt taking big time shots from 300-plus pound defenders in an effort to let the other guys know that they need to do their part.”

    Maybe he was stopping it for the benefit of the OL and simply inquiring WTF??? Blocking must get better and unfortunately, TE Sean Ryan isn’t part of the solution as far as a blocker goes…

  • October 23, 2009  - Rodeo John says:

    I agree MattMac44…I was reading ArrowheadPride this morning and they had an interesting write up on there talking about sacks. It was specifically supporting Alberts, having only been credited for allowing 2.5 sacks so far through 6 games.

    Sean Ryan on the other hand is credited for allowing 5 sacks. He definitely doesn’t seem to be the answer in keeping Matt Cassel off the ground.

    Oh, and concerning TG and his lack of drops. We as fans got spoiled and are short of memory. He, though is not, and that is what has made him to be as great as he is now. They were doing an interview with him last Sunday and he admitted that when he first came into the league, he was dropping a lot of balls his first couple of seasons and was having a hard go at it. But he got his mind right, started working extra hard and turned it around.

    Bowe can do the same thing. I think he will.

  • October 23, 2009  - Rodeo John says:

    For those that saw my post yesterday asking about which of six set of stats from QB’s this year you would prefer…here is the answer of who those QB’s were.

    Player Comp Pct TD Int Rate
    A David Garrard 61.3 5 3 83.9
    B Matt Cassel 57.1 7 2 82.2
    C Shaun Hill 56.3 5 2 80.7
    D Carson Palmer 59.1 8 7 78.3
    E Trent Edwards 59.5 5 6 73.0
    F Kerry Collins 54.8 5 8 62.0

    And by yards thrown, Cassel is the lowest ranked man out of these six. But you know what…I would rather have him than any of the others.

  • October 23, 2009  - gorillafan says:

    AWESOME article bob. nice to see your in depth perspective

  • October 23, 2009  - Mad Chief says:

    I echo gorillafan’s sentiments…great job, Bob. One of your best articles in recent memory.

    As for the Tony G comments? Don’t forget, Tony was always one of the first players at practice…and one of the last ones to leave. Even as the years went by, and as great as he became…he was always out there catching extra balls. He put in the work to make himself the player he became. It wasn’t magic…it was just plain old hard work. I made reference yesterday to players WANTING to be the best they could be, and doing whatever it takes to become that player. Gonzalez is the perfect example of that.

  • October 23, 2009  - Rodeo John says:

    I agree wholeheartedly Mad Chief. That is what I was trying to point out. Tony G saw that he had some deficiencies and wasn’t going to just accept them as they were. He knew with hard work he could be better.

    To this day he still does it. They were showing clips of him warming up with Matt Ryan. TG had Ryan intentionally throwing misplaced balls so TG could work on moving his body to catch them. Just in case it happened during game time. That is dedication.

  • October 23, 2009  - Zach S says:

    Nice piece, Bob!

    I’ve been really concerned about whether or not Cassell can survive the season, too. I do hope that keeping him alive is one of the top priorities of the coaching staff.

    I always like it when he takes of running because he’s good at it – but he could do that a lot more and not scare as many people if he would slide more often.

  • October 23, 2009  - Jim Lloyd+ says:

    I watch these guy’a at the Combine ,they run crossing pattern’s , out route’s and catch these ball’s on the money . Are team’s being fouled , due to fact that the NFL player hit’s harder and some WR’s build the fear that if they are hurt they won’t get all thier Money .
    Maybe dropped passes should be treated like missing the game PLUS a FINE !!!!!!!!!!!

  • October 23, 2009  - james gandolfini says:

    take into consideration how well hes done despite the beating a lack of wideouts….

    not to mention, hes not even…75 percent with his knee.

  • October 23, 2009  - colby says:

    In my humble opinion, Cassel has erased any doubts that I had about his ability to be a franchise QB. Part of the reason we don’t run a lot of three step drops may be because our slow WR corps isn’t fast enough to get off the line and get open that quickly. I do think that any time a CB is giving Bowe a ten yard cushion they should audible to a one step and wing it out to him and let him do his thing after the catch. He’s a load to bring down in the open field.

    The fact that Cassel is healthy, putting up good numbers (no INTs since the Raiders game) and staying optimistic is simply incredible. I can’t wait to see what he can do with a solid line and better WRs. I’m convinced he will be every bit as good as Rivers.

  • October 23, 2009  - gorillafan says:

    As usual, i agree 100% with colby

  • October 23, 2009  - james gandolfini says:

    better than rivers, rivers is a guy that lets things get to his head…stats taunting his opponent.

  • October 23, 2009  - Merwin in NY says:

    Colby, the biggest problem is that the opponents are generally right on the line of scrimmage across from our receivers. While we generally give their receivers a ten yard cushion. So it would be great if we could get the short slants, but they are hard to do when we are getting a lot of press coverage. Still it seems like if we throw quick slants then we should draw pass interference penalties even if the receivers can’t catch the ball.

  • October 23, 2009  - colby says:


    Great point! It drives me CRAZY that we don’t play more bump and run. I know the rules have changed since the Carter/Hasty hayday but it is WAY too easy for opponents to pick us apart when we give them such a huge cushion. It wouldn’t be so frustrating if we had garbage corners but Carr and Flowers are two of the best players on the whole team! We should trust them to stay with receivers. This would help our pass rush by (hopefully) making the opposing QBs have to hold the ball a second or a second and a half longer!

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