Orton one-ups Cassel in Denver’s rout
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Josh McDaniels had a strong connection with Matt Cassel from their four years together in New England, and even tried to bring the quarterback with him to Denver.
Now that Cassel is playing for his new team’s rival, McDaniels wants nothing more than to beat him. Every time.
Kyle Orton outplayed Cassel, the man who hastened his move to Denver, and the Broncos used a punishing running game to manhandle the Kansas City Chiefs 44-13 on Sunday.
“I want to win. I’m a Bronco,” McDaniels said. “We’re going to have more games against the Chiefs and Matt Cassel. It’s going to take a good effort to contain him and stop him every time we play him.”
Orton and Cassel – along with Jay Cutler – were at the center of a Melrose Place-like flurry of cold shoulders and heated exchanges during the offseason. The aftermath sent Orton to Denver and Cutler to Chicago, while Cassel ended up in Kansas City.
So far, Orton seems to have landed in the better situation.
Denver (8-4) overcame Orton’s three turnovers to win by 30 and keep pace with San Diego in the AFC West. Kansas City (3-9) never stood a chance after Cassel’s two interceptions, slumping its way to another disheartening loss.
The difference? Denver’s running game.
The Broncos had 245 yards rushing, getting big plays from Correll Buckhalter (113 yards) and two touchdowns from Knowshon Moreno to turn the 99th meeting between the AFL originals into a laugher.
“We were going to run the ball and pass the ball when we can,” Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall said.
The Chiefs (3-9) didn’t put up much of a fight on the day they retired Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas’ number.
Kansas City had its second straight defensive debacle, giving up 17 plays of 10 yards or more – 413 total yards – and has allowed 40 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1983.
The offense was again ineffective, plagued by poor pass protection, dropped passes and what may be Cassel’s worst game in Kansas City. He had a 14.6 quarterback rating before being pulled and the Chiefs finished with a lackluster 222 total yards in their second straight lopsided loss to an AFC West rival.
“I think it’s pretty simple: if you drop the ball on offense and throw the ball to them and you turn it over, you’re not going to do very well,” Chiefs coach Todd Haley said.
Cassel and McDaniels were in New England last season, McDaniels as the offensive coordinator, Cassel the capable fill-in after Tom Brady went down in the season opener – against the Chiefs, no less.
They remained linked during an offseason dustup between McDaniels and Cutler, the Pro Bowl quarterback who became upset after learning the Broncos wanted to trade for Cassel.
In their first head-to-head matchup, Orton wasn’t great, just better than Cassel.
Orton had an interception on the opening drive – off his back foot into the end zone – and lost two fumbles on blindside sacks. He was efficient the rest of the time in Denver’s dink-and-dunk offense, throwing 7-yard touchdown passes to Daniel Graham and Marshall, finishing 15 for 25 for 180 yards.
“We won and that’s really how I evaluate it every week,” Orton said. “I thought we made the plays in the passing game we had to make.”
Cassel was jittery and off-target against his one-time suitor. He threw two interceptions in the third quarter to start the rout and seemed to toss as many passes out of bounds as he completed. Cassel finished with 84 yards on 10 of 29 passing before being replaced by Brodie Croyle for the final 16:02.
“You name it, there were a lot of things going wrong out there,” Cassel said.
Kansas City’s offense sputtered all day.
A 20-play drive in the first half stalled at the 1, leading to a 22-yard field goal by Ryan Succop. A midfield sack and fumble by Orton led to another Succop field goal, a 47-yarder that pulled the Chiefs within 14-6 heading into halftime.
The game fell apart for the Chiefs in the second half.
A miserably executed fake punt at their own 28 – Croyle’s pass on fourth-and-8 was knocked down – on the opening drive led to a 44-yard field goal by Matt Prater. Then a miscommunication between Cassel and Lance Long was easily intercepted by Andre Goodman, setting up Marshall’s catch-and-run touchdown.
Next drive, another Cassel interception led to the second of Prater’s three field goals, from 38 yards.
Goodman sealed it for Denver at the end of the third quarter, returning Jamaal Charles’ fumble 30 yards for a touchdown that put the Broncos up 34-6.
Cassel lasted one more series, getting sacked and throwing a pair of incompletions before Haley circled the wagons and pulled him.
“I think we did a good job to be able to contain him,” Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil. “But whenever you get another quarterback to come into the game, you feel kind of a pride.”
Notes: Broncos RT Ryan Harris didn’t play after injuring his right foot in the first quarter, but McDaniels didn’t believe the injury to be serious. … Kansas City’s Tamba Hali had a career-high three sacks. … Denver won for just the second time in 18 games at Arrowhead Stadium in December. … Kansas City’s 20-play drive was its longest since a 23-play drive against Cincinnati in 1988.
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