Matt Cassel Should Remain Minnesota Vikings' Starter After Breakout Performance

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2013

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

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
2010Week 9 vs Cardinals446Bret Favre27-24 OT Win
2004Week 6 @ Saints425Duante Culpepper38-31 Win
2004Week 15 vs Lions404Duante Culpepper28-27 Win
2004Week 5 @ Texans396Duante Culpepper34-28 Win
2009Week 12 vs Bears392Brett Favre36-10 Win
2013Week 15 vs Eagles382Matt Cassel48-30 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
Nick Foles304842831103.5
Matt Cassel263538221116.6

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
OpponentWeekQBPass YdsTDINTRatingResult
Steelers4Matt Cassel24820123.4Win
Eagles15Matt Cassel38221116.3Win
Redskins10Christian Ponder17421113.1Win
Packers12Christian Ponder23310103.9Tie
Ravens14Matt Cassel2652086.0Loss
Bears13Matt Cassel2431180.7Win
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.