Cassel tosses TD to help Chiefs beat Rams 27-13
Matt Cassel made a rapid recovery. Same goes for the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cassel was the biggest story in a 27-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, taking all the snaps only 11 days after an emergency appendectomy with strong, gritty leadership that helped the Chiefs hold their one-game lead in the AFC West.
''I felt 100 percent,'' Cassel said. ''Otherwise, I wouldn't have been out there.''
The Chiefs (9-5) had 213 yards rushing, riding big games by Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones one week after managing just 48 in a shutout at San Diego.
Wallace Gilberry sacked Sam Bradford three times and Kendrick Lewis intercepted the rookie twice for a defense that got burned for 31 points by the Chargers.
''A big thing for us all week was that we had to show we could bounce back from a difficult, demoralizing loss,'' coach Todd Haley said. ''We started out a little shaky but we got our feet under us.''
The Rams (6-8) fizzled after a strong start, losing their second straight and missing a shot to solidify first place in the weak NFC West. Bradford became the third rookie in NFL history to pass for 3,000 yards but it came in one of his worst performances.
There was plenty of blame to go around in a game that ended with thousands of Chiefs fans who made the drive across Interstate 70 doing the tomahawk chop in a quickly emptying Edward Jones Dome. The fan following no doubt played a part in the Rams' five false starts on offense.
''For a home game, it was a little harder to hear,'' Bradford said. ''Five false starts is inexcusable.''
Easing the sting, St. Louis remained in a first-place tie with Seattle in the woebegone NFC West, which was 0-4 on Sunday.
''Basically, for us our regular season is over and now it's playoff mode,'' coach Steve Spagnuolo said.
Running back Steven Jackson would have liked to have heard that before the game.
''We should have been in playoff mode today,'' Jackson said. ''We made a lot of mistakes out there. I mean, there's no pretty way to put it.''
Bradford got harassed most of the day by a defense that didn't need to blitz to apply pressure. He was 8 for 11 for 49 yards in the first quarter and 13 for 32 for 132 yards and two interceptions the rest of the way.
Charles helped clinch it with a late 80-yard burst, one play after Jackson's 5-yard run had capped the Rams' only effective drive the last three quarters and cut the deficit to 20-13.
Jones became the NFL's 25th player to rush for 10,000 yards and scored the final touchdown on a 2-yard run with 3:26 to go, one play after Ron Bartell ran down Charles just shy of the goal line.
Cassel was questionable after getting limited work in practice, but signaled his intention to play by leading the team onto the field for warmups. He didn't miss a snap, going 15 for 29 for 184 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
The Rams sacked him twice on the same series in the third quarter, but otherwise Cassel was rarely touched, and he even scrambled 13 yards for a first down in the second quarter.
''I would say I was a little nervous going into the game just because for 28 years of my life I've played every game with my appendix,'' Cassel said. ''Everything felt good. I feel good now and a win makes it feel better.''
The Rams led 6-0 after field goals to end the first two possessions, but totaled only one first down in the second and third quarters while the Chiefs scored 20 straight points.
The Chiefs finished 3-5 on the road and won their fifth straight in the series since 1997. Gov. Jay Nixon presented the Governor's Cup trophy, usually awarded after a preseason game.
Jones, who alternates with Charles, hit the 10,000-yard plateau on a 4-yard carry early in the third quarter. Jones entered the game needing 17 yards and finished with 62 on 22 carries after totaling 1 yard on three attempts last week.
The Rams' early success ended a three-game stretch in which they were outscored 30-0 the first two possessions, but the Chiefs outgained them 155-8 in the second quarter.