Battered Vikings offense buoyed by Cassel-Jennings tandem

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2013 - 6:36 AM

What would have happened had Matt Cassel started at quarterback all season long?

Fans aren’t the only ones wondering what might have been had Matt Cassel been the Vikings’ starting quarterback all season.

“Yeah, you wonder,” receiver Greg Jennings admitted Sunday after catching a career-high 11 passes for 163 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown, in a 48-30 upset of the Eagles at Mall of America Field.

Jennings mentioned that to Cassel before he went out and completed 26 of 35 passes (74.3 percent) for 382 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and a 116.6 passer rating while improving to 2-2 as a starter this season.

“He’s like, ‘We got three games. Let’s make the best of it,’ ” Jennings said. “I love that.”

So does embattled Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who had to declare five starters, including Adrian Peterson, and backup running back Toby Gerhart, because of injuries. With the running game averaging only 2.4 yards on 35 carries, it was Cassel’s fourth-highest passing yardage total ever that carried the Vikings to their highest point total since a 50-10 victory over Jacksonville on Dec. 20, 1998.

“It seems like his experience really shows up,” Frazier said. “The things he is seeing [during games] really helps [offensive coordinator] Bill [Musgrave] and our offensive staff to call plays. Veteran experience is probably what separates him.”

Yet the Vikings at one point had Cassel as their No. 3 quarterback. After starting the Vikings’ fourth and fifth games, Cassel was a backup for seven games until Christian Ponder’s concussion gave him another chance at Baltimore on Dec. 8.

“We made those decisions at the time for different reasons,” Frazier said. “We always felt good about Matt, but there were some things we needed to see. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get wins when we were going through the process. That would have been a lot better. [I] knew why we were doing it back then, so hindsight is always 20/20.”

Cassel targeted the wide receivers 28 times, completing 21 of them for 312 yards and two touchdowns. He had six completions of 22 yards or more to three different targets. Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson also drew a 30-yard pass interference penalty.

Cassel refuses to entertain “what-if” questions and speculate on whether he’ll return next season or exercise his option to leave. Obviously, his early-season patience is paying off.

“You don’t really have much of a choice,” Cassel said when asked how he’s remained so patient. “I think the main choice is whether you’re going to let that get to you or you’re going to continue to move forward and have a positive attitude and help the guys around you. I chose to go that route than the other.”

Jennings definitely wants a second act with Cassel in 2014. Asked if he’ll lobby for Cassel to return, Jennings smiled like a guy whose four best games and all four touchdowns this season have come with Cassel at quarterback.

“Absolutely,” Jennings said. “I love Matt. I do. I think he brings a lot to the table.”

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Toronto - LP: A. Loup 4 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: J. Outman 6
LA Angels 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Detroit 2
Atlanta 3 Bottom 9th Inning
NY Mets 3
Seattle 2 Top 9th Inning
Miami 3
St. Louis 2 Top 8th Inning
Washington 2
Milwaukee 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Pittsburgh 1
NY Yankees 1 Top 8th Inning
Tampa Bay 1
Minnesota 5 Bottom 6th Inning
Kansas City 1
Cincinnati 4 Top 5th Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Chicago WSox 2 Bottom 4th Inning
Texas 1
Houston 0 Top 1st Inning
Oakland 0
Philadelphia - R. Hernandez 3:10 PM
Colorado - J. Nicasio
San Francisco - T. Lincecum 3:10 PM
San Diego - R. Erlin
Arizona - J. Collmenter 3:10 PM
Los Angeles - J. Beckett
Baltimore - U. Jimenez 6:05 PM
Boston - J. Peavy
Dallas 85 FINAL
San Antonio 90
Charlotte 29 2nd Qtr 7:19
Miami 26
Washington 6:00 PM
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13




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