KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Matt Cassel is in bounceback mode. At least he’s still on his feet.
The Kansas City quarterback is heading into Sunday’s playoff game against Baltimore one week after getting whacked around and abused worse than any other time all year, not counting emergency surgery.
In a 31-10 loss to Oakland that ruined the Chiefs’ perfect home record, Cassel was sacked five times, intercepted twice and harried and hurried all day long.
He went into the game with 27 touchdown passes and only five interceptions and came out with 27 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. His quarterback rating of 19.1 was less than half of his previous season low, and more than 100 points worse than what he’d done the week before against Tennessee.
“I feel great,” Cassel said Wednesday. “Just smiling a lot more.”
One of the Chiefs’ ugliest games all season happened on the same field where Cassel and the Chiefs will be facing Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the rest of a Ravens defense that gave up the third-fewest points in the league while going 12-4.
So just how damaged is the confidence of a young team that’s not been in the playoffs since 2006?
“I think we all turn the page pretty quickly here,” Cassel said. “We made some corrections from the game, but in terms of dwelling on it, it won’t do us any good come Sunday. We’ve got to obviously play better.”
At least the humbling loss did not dampen the players’ playoff enthusiasm. Cassel and coach Todd Haley both said the practice facility was brimming with players who came in voluntarily on their days off Monday and Tuesday to study film and work out.
“Normally on Tuesdays the coaches are in meetings trying to put together a game plan and watch a lot of film. (But) the receivers group came in here on their own on Tuesday and watched film,” Cassel said. “The tight ends group and the running backs group, the quarterback group. You just saw all these groups coming and they’re watching film together and they’re trying to get a head start and that’s great. That’s what we need. We have to increase the intensity this week. Everybody understands the implications of what’s up ahead.”
One encouraging sign for Cassel and the Chiefs is their history of rebounding from tough losses. They reeled off three wins in a row after getting drilled at Denver and won their next two following a 31-0 setback at San Diego.
Cassel, after missing one game with an emergency appendectomy, came back and played well in a 27-13 victory at St. Louis.
“We’ve been able to bounce back all year,” he said. “That helps give us confidence.”
Cassel also had a new wide receiver to throw to on Wednesday. With Pro Bowler Dwayne Bowe absent from practice with what the Chiefs described as illness, free agent Kevin Curtis was signed, a veteran who’s spent time with Miami, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Cassel said he would be comfortable throwing to Curtis on Sunday if that’s what is needed.
“If he’s out there, there’s a reason he’s out there. We believe and the coaches believe that he can get the job done. That’s why he’s out there in the first place.”
If Bowe is out, that would transfer a big load to Chris Chambers, who has made seven starts and caught 22 passes for 213 yards and one TD. But unlike Bowe and many other young Chiefs players, Chambers has playoff experience to draw from with Miami and San Diego.
“Everything seems to go faster in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s also the most exciting time of any season for any player. And that’s a great defense we’ll be facing. Ed Reed makes everybody around him better. That’s the mark of a great player.”
Chiefs Pro Bowlers Bowe, Waters
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and guard Brian Waters, two of Kansas City’s three Pro Bowlers, missed practice Wednesday.
Coach Todd Haley said both were out because of illness. He declined to say whether both will be ready for Sunday’s home playoff game against Baltimore. He said simply that they were unable to practice.
The Chiefs also signed free agent wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who has played in 81 games with Miami, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Last month, Haley used the word illness to explain quarterback Matt Cassel’s absence from practice. The Chiefs announced later that Cassel had undergone an emergency appendectomy that wound up sidelining him for a game.