The fans in Kansas City finally got what they wanted when Matt Cassel was relieved by Brady Quinn in the middle of the fourth quarter. Cassel was not benched for performance, but left the game due to injury as the fans at Arrowhead cheered as he lay on his back on the field.
The organization did Cassel no favors. The Chiefs clearly didn’t trust Cassel as the team ran the ball 50 compared to 18 passes (15 by Cassel) and continued to trot him out despite four turnovers. The turnovers and an anemic passing game were too much to overcome in a 9-6 loss.
Turnovers have been a theme this season for the Chiefs, as they are now minus-15 in turnover margin on the season. Cassel has been involved directly or indirectly in most of those turnovers. Quinn came in and energized the offense, drove the Chiefs into scoring position and threw a touchdown pass that would have given the Chiefs the lead but was negated by a penalty.
Did the Chiefs put too much of the load on Jamaal Charles and the running game?
Kansas City’s defense played well and held the Ravens without an offensive touchdown. Joe Flacco had an interception and threw for just 187 yards. Ray Rice had 102 yards, but he didn’t hurt the Chiefs in the passing game or get into the end zone. The special teams also forced a fumble on a kickoff to start the second half, but the offense would turn a sure-touchdown into a turnover.
Charles was the Chiefs' best offensive weapon and was picking up big chunks of yardage on the ground in the first half, but the Ravens adjusted and limited Charles to just 15 yards in the second half. The run-heavy approach was one that worked well for the Chiefs in 2010, and combined with good defense, the Chiefs were never out of the game.
Unfortunately, the Chiefs may have taken the run-heavy approach to an extreme. It was clear that Cassel couldn’t be trusted with the offense, and once the Ravens adjusted, the Chiefs had trouble moving the ball. The formula for success in Kansas City might well be a similar approach without the turnovers, but eventually the team has to trust its quarterback to throw when the situation calls for it.
The most pressing issue in Kansas City is at quarterback, and Cassel could potentially miss some time with an apparent concussion. If Quinn plays well as the starter, it’s going to be very hard to justify inserting Cassel back into the lineup when he’s able to pass the NFL’s concussion tests.
The Chiefs still have a talented roster. Playing the Ravens tough and losing by a field goal is proof that the team could win plenty of games with an average passing attack and fewer turnovers. The Chiefs will travel to Tampa Bay in Week 6 and then have a bye week. A win next week to move to 2-4 might give the team some time to regroup prior to their final 10 games.
The big question going forward: Brady Quinn or Matt Cassel?