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Matt Cassel Officially Arrives, Even in a Loss

Nov 14, 2008 – 9:34 AM
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Shane Bacon

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Nope, understudy quarterback Matt Cassel wasn't able to carry New England to victory on Thursday night. The Patriots dropped to the Jets last night in a thriller of a football game, mainly because they had to play catch up and couldn't stop the Jets offense when it mattered most.

None of that matters, however, when talking about Matt Cassel. This was his breakout game, and what a performance it was.

All the unknown players have one of these before they become household names. Tony Romo had his game against the Buccaneers in 2006, throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions in just his fifth start as a Cowboy. Tom Brady had his in 2001, a three touchdown performance against his soon-to-be foe Peyton Manning as the Patriots took down the Colts at Indianapolis and set us up for years of Brady-Manning showdowns.

Thursday night was Cassel's birth, a 30 of 51 performance with three touchdowns and 400 total passing yards. The numbers can 't exactly explain that final drive though.

If composure was a verb, it would have been Cassel at the end of regulation. Cassel to Ben Watson for nine yards. Cassel to Watson for 11 yards. Cassel to Wes Welker for 17 yards, every time making sure to get his team to the line and spike the ball a split second after they were set.

That drive was what we have all become accustomed to with the Patriots. Needing a touchdown with 1:04 left in the game, Brady and company usually got it. This time, Cassel found it. After another 14 yard gain put the Pats on the Jets 16-yard line, the quarterback that never started a game in college found himself scrambling as the clock was hurrying to find zero. Rolling right and looking to have absolutely nothing, Cassel delivered one of the better crunch-time passes you will ever see.

With Randy Moss falling away -- the defender's hand basically picking Moss' nose -- Cassel threw a pass that gave the words "tight spiral" a new meaning. Touchdown Patriots. Cassel brought them back. Goosebumps, show yourselves.

Unfortunately for the first-year starter, the Jets won the coin flip and the defense broke down when it needed to stand strong. If the football gods had a conscience, they would have allowed Cassel one last chance to drive down the field in overtime.

The Patriots might be trailing the Jets in the division, but Pats fans should be as hopeful as they were pre-Bernard Pollard. This kid ain't all bad.
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