The Chiefs did just about all they could to defeat the defending AFC champion Colts Sunday — except score enough points. The reason they could muster only three field goals? The lack of an explosive passing attack.
For the third time in four games this season, QB Matt Cassel was held below 200 yards in Sunday's 19-9 loss to the Colts, completing 16-of-29 passes for 156 yards. With the defense keeping Kansas City in the contest for nearly all 60 minutes, Cassel and Co. were only able convert one third down in 10 chances and made just two trips into the red zone, which resulted in three points.
The Chiefs' ineptitude through the air wasn't all Cassel's fault, however. WR Dwayne Bowe dropped two passes on one drive, including one that would have been a touchdown. Chris Chambers also dropped a pass in the fourth quarter. With the wideouts making little contribution yet again, rookie TE Tony Moeaki led the Chiefs in receiving with four catches for 50 yards.
The PFW Spin
The Chiefs clearly have made tremendous progress in many facets of the game this season. Their defense against the run has been unbelievably stout, and their pass "D" did a remarkable job holding Colts QB Peyton Manning to 244 yards, zero TDs and one interception Sunday. Offensively, their running game has been one of the league's best, with either Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones or both getting it done most weeks. And their special teams rank near the top in multiple categories. They have all the ingredients of a great team, except one: a passing game.
While K.C. had hoped that this would be the year Cassel made significant strides, thus far he has looked all too close to his underachieving self from 2009. He doesn't look comfortable dropping back to pass, too often misfires on downfield throws and frequently makes questionable decisions. The only reason he has enjoyed even one good game this season (Week Three vs. the 49ers) is because the Chiefs altered their game plan to have him throw short and let their playmakers do the work after the catch. Kansas City may have hired offensive coordinator Charlie Weis specifically to fix Cassel, but the results have yet to develop on the field.
To be fair, Cassel wasn't exactly provided with the best group of weapons. After dropping passes at an ungodly rate in '09, Bowe is back to doing the same thing this season; his dropped TD Sunday could have made the difference between the Chiefs winning and losing. He caught two of his eight targets vs. Indy and has nine receptions in four games. And Chambers has been virtually invisible all season. Unfortunately for Cassel, that's about all the Chiefs have to offer at wideout. It's no wonder he has developed such a quick rapport with Moeaki, who has displayed amazing hands.
The Chiefs' stellar defense and running game might be enough to allow them to hang with the majority of teams on their schedule, and it may even be enough for them to capture a weakened AFC West. But when they're matched up with the AFC's elite come playoff time, their inability to generate offense through the air ultimately could be their downfall. Unless Cassel and his targets make significant strides, don't expect this team to be a serious contender in the postseason.