Matt Cassel opens preseason with efficiency

Posted Aug 12, 2012

Comfort with Brian Daboll’s offense apparent in preseason opener

His reaction was markedly less demonstrative than the fans in Arrowhead Stadium. It's only the preseason, and a fist pump was all Matt Cassel needed to celebrate his first touchdown pass this year.

The real celebrations will be saved for the games that count. And if Cassel’s play on Friday is any indication, there will be a lot more fist bumps and a few more meaningful games during this upcoming season.

“I don’t even want to talk about last year,” said Cassel after the game. “Last year was last year. I’m proud of how we came out tonight. It feels good to win in front of our home crowd – even if it is a preseason game.”

Even if it was just a preseason game, Cassel’s play has to say something about the player he actually is. His flaws are so readily listed, but he showed nothing but efficiency against Arizona. His passer rating was 152.8 (perfect is 158.3). He missed only one throw. He dissected the Cardinals on back-to-back drives to give the Chiefs a 14-0 lead before throwing on a baseball cap for the rest of the evening.

The 11-yard touchdown pass to Hillis looked too easy. But Cassel bided his time, looked off Hillis, and only threw the pass when the running back was sure to score.

Other throws were even tougher. Even in the preseason, it's not easy to convert a 3rd-and-9 from shotgun when the defense knows you have to pass. So when Cassel did, he exhibited the type of arm strength his doubters said he never possessed.

But Dexter McCluster was hit between the twos on his jersey and in stride. First down, Kansas City.

Then, there was the 29-yard out McCluster caught when Arizona’s linebackers bit on a play fake. The play was sandwiched by a 28-yard Hillis rumble and a four-yard rushing score from Shaun Draughn.

“I think I’m very comfortable,” said Cassel. “We’ve had a very good camp so far and we’ve been working hard. I think the offensive line, the receivers, the running backs have embraced the challenge of learning this offense and it showed it tonight.”

But above everything else, it’s up to Cassel to lead the offensive line, the receivers, and the running backs. He played only one quarter of football, but he did just that.

On a 4th-and-one in the game’s opening drive, Cassel never left his huddle. And when Cassel's number was called on the play, he motioned his receivers out wide, and took the ball up the gut himself after spreading the defense thin.

Friday night should serve as a refresher course. Matt Cassel left the field with a fist-pump. It was because Kansas City’s first-team offense had just sliced up the Cardinals starting defense. And first preseason game or not, it was pretty impressive.