Vikings' three and out: Cassel's back
- Article by: Mark Craig
- Star Tribune
- December 11, 2013 - 11:33 PM
While the face of the franchise nurses the sprained foot of the franchise, we’ll step away from Adrian Peterson’s playing status for Sunday’s game against the Eagles at Mall of America Field to focus on this week’s version of three-and-out …
1. From KC’s junk to MSP’s treasure
Ball security is the primary reason Matt Cassel was named on Wednesday as Sunday’s starting quarterback. How strange must that sound in Kansas City, where Chiefs fans are celebrating a 10-3 season and thanking their football gods for Cassel’s departure following a turnover-marred 2-14 season a year ago?
In Minnesota, Cassel is the quarterback who more consistently executes the offense with the best rhythm and fewest mistakes. His interception percentage of 2.5 (four in 159 attempts) is lower than Christian Ponder’s 3.8 (nine in 239 attempts). He also has lost fewer fumbles (0-4) and is sacked once per 27.5 pass plays compared to Ponder’s one per 9.8 pass plays.
A year ago, Cassel started eight games, finishing 1-7 with 19 turnovers. His interception percentage was 4.3 (12 in 277 attempts).
Cassel was asked if he’s been focused on being more careful with the ball after what he went through a year ago.
“I wouldn’t say that,” said Cassel, who will start for the second straight week and fourth time this season. “I just think we’ve been doing a good job of taking care of the football all around. I think last year at times we got behind early and we had to throw the ball a lot and sometimes there’s tipped balls and everything else that goes on.
“Sometimes it’s just a bad decision, and I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not perfect at all. Anybody that plays this position, you know you’re going to have some turnovers and you’re going to do that. But the other thing is coming back from that.”
2. Don’t forget about Philly ‘D’
Twenty-six points were the fewest allowed by the Eagles during their 1-3 start. But since then, Philadelphia is the only team in the league to go the past nine games without allowing more than 21 points. Not coincidentally, the Eagles have gone 7-2 while taking a one-game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East.
So put an asterisk next to the Eagles’ No. 30 league ranking on defense.
“They’re a team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that’s predicated on speed,” Cassel said.
3. Best Eagle 1-2 punch ever?
A record-setting tribute to Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s balanced approach offensively could come as early as Sunday at Mall of America Field.
Running back LeSean McCoy, who leads the NFL in rushing with 1,305 yards, and DeSean Jackson, who is 10th in receiving yards with 1,080, need 222 combined yards to become the most prolific rushing and receiving combination in Eagles history.
The record belongs to running back Ricky Watters (1,411) and receiver Irving Fryar (1,195), who combined for 2,606 yards in 1996. The Eagles lead the league in rushing (158.5 yards per game) but also rank No. 1 in passing plays of 20 or more yards (64). With 400 yards of offense on Sunday, the Eagles would become just the fourth team in league history to post 11 400-yard games in their first 14 games.
“They’re a running football team, no doubt about that,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. “[Quarterback Nick] Foles has done an excellent job of throwing the ball in his spots and giving his receivers a chance, but they’re definitely trying to give LeSean the ball as much as they can and let him make plays.”
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