Matt Cassel Should Remain Minnesota Vikings' Starter After Breakout Performance

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Matt Cassel Should Remain Minnesota Vikings' Starter After Breakout Performance
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Quarterback Matt Cassel threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third, as the Minnesota Vikings beat the Philadelphia Eagles 48-30.

It's been a debate for most of the season for the Minnesota Vikings as they have shuffled quarterbacks all season long. Making only his fourth start of the season, quarterback Matt Cassel put an exclamation point on his argument to be the Vikings' starter—at least for the rest of this season and possibly into the next.

Cassel led the Vikings to the most points in a game since Week 14 of the 1998 season when they beat the Chicago Bears 48-22. That season, the Vikings had the top scoring offense and finished the season 15-1 in the regular season.

There will be plenty of people that will point out that the Eagles have a pretty porous pass defense. Coming into the game, the Eagles ranked 31st in the NFL, giving up an average of 285.5 passing yards per game. Cassel exceeded that average by almost 100 yards as he finished with 382 passing yards on 26-of-35 passing with two touchdowns and an interception. 

This season in his four starts, Cassel has averaged 284 yards per game. His 382 passing yards against the Eagles are not only the most this season, but the most since 2010 when Brett Favre was slinging the football. It's also the sixth-most passing yards by a Vikings player in a game since 2004.

Most Passing Yards by a Vikings QB Since 2004
Year Week Yards QB Result
2010 Week 9 vs Cardinals 446 Bret Favre 27-24 OT Win
2004 Week 6 @ Saints 425 Duante Culpepper 38-31 Win
2004 Week 15 vs Lions 404 Duante Culpepper 28-27 Win
2004 Week 5 @ Texans 396 Duante Culpepper 34-28 Win
2009 Week 12 vs Bears 392 Brett Favre 36-10 Win
2013 Week 15 vs Eagles 382 Matt Cassel 48-30 Win

Pro Football Reference

The fact that the Vikings came into the game without a running game should have worked against Cassel. Their third-string running back, Matt Asiata, finished with only 51 yards on 30 carries. But he did score three touchdowns as Cassel got the Vikings into the red zone with his passing. Asiata had two touchdown runs of one yard and a third of five yards.

This was supposed to be a lopsided game—except with the Eagles and their top-ranked quarterback picking apart a depleted Vikings secondary. Instead, Cassel outplayed Nick Foles and the Eagles, who are in the midst of battling for the playoffs.    

QB Comparison: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings
Quarterback Comp Att Yards TD INT Rating
Nick Foles 30 48 428 3 1 103.5
Matt Cassel 26 35 382 2 1 116.6

One game may not justify moving Cassel to the top of the Vikings' depth chart. Besides his performance against the Eagles, Cassel has also had very good performances against the Steelers, Bears and Ravens. He is the quarterback of record in three of the Vikings' four wins this season.    

Top QB Performances for the Minnesota Vikings this Season
Opponent Week QB Pass Yds TD INT Rating Result
Steelers 4 Matt Cassel 248 2 0 123.4 Win
Eagles 15 Matt Cassel 382 2 1 116.3 Win
Redskins 10 Christian Ponder 174 2 1 113.1 Win
Packers 12 Christian Ponder 233 1 0 103.9 Tie
Ravens 14 Matt Cassel 265 2 0 86.0 Loss
Bears 13 Matt Cassel 243 1 1 80.7 Win

Pro Football Reference

Cassel also helped wide receiver Greg Jennings to the most catches in a game for his career. Jennings finished with 11 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown—the second-highest yardage total in his career. In Week 2 of 2008, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Jennings caught six passes for 167 yards

We finally saw what we were expecting from Jennings when he was signed as a free agent from Green Bay. Perhaps this is the passing combination that the Vikings need. The only way we'll know is to see if the chemistry carries over to another week.  

At the very least, the Vikings needs to see what Cassel can do against another potential playoff team and give him the start against the Bengals next week in Cincinnati.

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