Baldwin's quiet start is somewhat surprising

Posted Sep 16, 2012

Baldwin can help this offense rebound by becoming that go-to guy when the games actually count.

The Bills fans still soaking up their team's 25-point lead were as loud as advertised. Jonathan Baldwin silenced them with one play.

On the left sideline, the second-year receiver jumped over cornerback Stephon Gilmore - Buffalo's first round draft pick this year - for a 26-yard completion that left only the Chiefs fans in Buffalo cheering.

It was Baldwin's first reception on the regular season, but it wasn't any different than the highlight-reel catches he snagged all summer at training camp. So as the Chiefs face a make-or-break matchup in New Orleans next weekend, Baldwin and his freakish athletic ability should figure more into the next game plan.

His quiet start is somewhat surprising. Baldwin became the safety valve for quarterback Matt Cassel at Missouri Western State. The receiver delivered by reeling in jump balls and one-handed catches like they were simple two-handed receptions.

By the time camp concluded, Cassel felt comfortable throwing it up to his big receiver. More often than not, he came down with the ball. So with Sunday's less-than-desirable average yards gained per pass play (5.8) and third down conversion rate (5-14), in mind, a player like Baldwin can help this offense rebound by becoming that go-to guy when the games actually count.

"We have to do a better job of staying ahead on downs - first and second downs - and creating positive plays," said Cassel after the 35-17 week two loss. "It's hard to convert on third and long in this league. We have to sustain drives."

The Chiefs can avoid tough distance downs by playing to the strengths of their biggest target. The tallest member of the Saints' secondary is 6-foot-1 safety Roman Harper. At 6-foot-4, Baldwin can make some room against defenders.

His 26-yard sideline catch was the perfect example of what Baldwin can do.

Gilmore gave him a sizable cushion at the beginning of the play to try and avoid getting boxed out at the line of scrimmage. But as he proved time after time at training camp, Baldwin adjusted, driving downfield with Gilmore and turning around just in time for a back-shoulder fade.

The crowd was stunned and silent for the first time in the second half. On a day with few red zone trips, Baldwin’s catch set the Chiefs offense up at the two-yard line.

Cassel tossed his second touchdown to Bowe when coverage shifted Baldwin’s way, and after the game he said that there are 14 games left to turn around the offense. That means Baldwin will have 14 more games to build upon his first catch and help the Chiefs sustain drives.

Those drives can exist outside the final minutes of an otherwise-decided game, though. The Chiefs need more out of the offense, and just by Baldwin's first regular season reception of 2012, it's clear he can be a difference maker.

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