Found December 15, 2013 on Fox Sports North:
MINNEAPOLIS -- Matt Cassel stopped his backpedal, looked ahead and saw the Philadelphia Eagles' defense part down the middle the same the Minnesota Vikings' defense did in practice during the week on a designed run. Cassel took off and was untouched on a 6-yard touchdown run to give Minnesota a surprising 24-lead in the third quarter, against Philadelphia, which had won five in a row. The play unfolded just like the Vikings and Cassel had practiced. He never thought the same would occur in Sunday's game. "It opened up like that in practice and I was like, 'Oh man, I'm going to get smashed in the game, for sure,'" Cassel said after Sundays' 48-30 win. "And then, sure as day, I take the drop and it just parted like the Red Sea. I was like, "Oh my goodness, this is great.'" Cassel and the Vikings (4-9-1) found space all game long against a Philadelphia defense that hadn't allowed more than 21 points in a game since Week 4 and had held teams under 300 yards passing the past four weeks. Without injured running back Adrian Peterson, Cassel took the game in his hands and was 26 of 35 for 382 yards passing, three total touchdowns and an interception. With receiver Greg Jennings hauling in a career-high 11 catches for 163 yards and Jarius Wright adding a career-high 95 yards receiving, Cassel threw for the most yards by a Minnesota quarterback since Brett Favre tallied 446 yards on Nov. 7, 2010. The Vikings scored their most points in a game since scoring 50 points on Dec. 20, 1998. "We got a special group in that (receivers meeting) room, and it's almost as if we fly under the radar because of our running game and because we don't throw the ball as much as other teams across the league," Jennings said. "But when we have an opportunity to make plays, this is what can happen. And when we have a guy that's back there who's divvying it up and spreading the ball around, and the offensive line did an outstanding job all afternoon. "It was awesome to see the in-sync-ness of the offense and just the way we operated as a well-oiled machine all across the board." Cassel has been the lubricant to the Minnesota offense, at least to the after-thought passing game. With the Eagles' big-play offense facing a short-handed Vikings defense and without the team's top two running backs in Peterson and Toby Gerhart, Cassel took control. He hit his first nine passes, including a 57-yard touchdown to Jennings. "Very smart quarterback," Jennings said. "He just has a lot of poise back there and he tries to make plays down the field with his eyes and his arm." Minnesota has four pass plays of 50-plus yards this season, all by Cassel. His 90.7 quarterback rating leads the team and he has nine touchdowns and five interceptions. The 31-year-old veteran is the efficient, consistent starter the Vikings hoped Ponder would become, and he adds one piece Christian Ponder (36 career games) can't. "He has a good idea of how we want to work our offense, and also his input in giving some feedback the things that he's seeing really helps (offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave) and our offensive staff in calling plays based on what he sees on the field," coach Leslie Frazier said. "So, I think his veteran experience is probably what separates him at this point." In five games of playing at least a half, Cassel has thrown for at least 241 yards, a total Ponder hasn't matched once this season. Yet, Cassel was repeatedly passed by for Ponder -- and one game for Josh Freeman -- as the Vikings season slipped away. "Made those decisions at the time for different reasons," coach Leslie Frazier said after Sunday's game. "Always felt good about Matt, but there was some things we needed to see. Unfortunately we weren't able to get wins as we were going through the process. That would have been a lot better. But knew why we were doing it back then. So, hindsight's always 20-20." Cassel's performances have added another chapter in the "what might have been" of Minnesota's seasons with inconsistent quarterback play and a defense that has faltered in late-game situations. "Yeah, you wonder it, but we have to move on," Jennings said. "I remember mentioning something like that to Matt and he's like, 'We got three games, let's make the best of it.' I love that because that's his mindset. He's not worried about what could of, should of, what could have possibly been. He stays in the now. As a quarterback, as a player, that's how we have to operate. We have to stay in the now and take advantage of what's right in front of us." Cassel is doing just that. There won't be any midweek quarterback questions. Frazier has already said Cassel will start next week at Cincinnati. "He took advantage of this opportunity," Frazier said. "He's played with so much poise each time he's got in the ball game, whether he's coming in relief or in this case, starting. He's done some good things. Credit to him because it has not been easy. "I'm sure there were other moments where he felt like he should have continued to stay in the starter role and it didn't happen. He didn't pout. He kept preparing every day in practice, going through tape, preparing himself as if he was going to start and he's taken full advantage of the opportunity." Cassel is seizing the opportunity Ponder wasn't able to this season. Ponder, the team's first-round draft pick in 2011, returned as Minnesota's starter. Cassel, after losing his own job in Kansas City because of a concussion, came to town as the backup. Ponder continued to work through erratic play and injuries. Cassel continued to go about his way, not causing any disruption and preparing himself for his chance. "You don't really have much of a choice, you know," Cassel said when asked how he stayed patient. "I think the main choice is whether you're going to let that get to you or whether you're going to continue to move forward in the right direction and have a positive attitude, and help the guys around you. I think that I chose to go that route than the other." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Minnesota Vikings: In Cassel we trust?

Unbelievable. That is the exact word to describe the Vikings offense in today’s 48-30 win over the Eagles. The most surprising part was that the Vikings managed to score their season high in points without their best player Adrian Peterson. Matt Cassel definitely deserved the game ball. He was able to manage an effective game even though the defense planned to stop the passing...

Report: Matt Cassel will start the Vikings final two games

    According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen,  Matt Cassel will be the Vikings’ starting quarterback for their final two regular season games. Matt Cassel will indeed start the Vikings' last 2 games, barring injury, per sources. No reason to further evaluate Josh Freeman. — Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) December 17, 2013 Cassel should have been...

Vikings report card: Matt Cassel excellent against Eagles

The Minnesota Vikings were extremely short-handed Sundaynear the end of an increasingly lost season, playing without their top tworunning backs, top two tight ends and top three cornerbacks.On the others side were the streaking Philadelphia Eagles,winners of five straight games and owning the NFC's best road record at 5-1.So of course, Minnesota rallied together and beatPhiladelphia...

Matt Cassel could be the Vikings permanent quarterback going into 2014

At 4-9-1, there’s little overt optimism when considering the Minnesota Vikings’ 2013 campaign. Looking a little closer, however, we see that there is in fact a silver lining that has developed for the Vikings, and that would be quarterback Matt Cassel. In the seven games that Matt Cassel has taken snaps, the Vikings are a respectable 4-3. To put more perspective on that record...

Matt Cassel Just Cost Leslie Frazier His Job

During the entire 2013 season, the Minnesota Vikings have played musical chairs at quarterback. While that sounds like a blast, it hasn't resulted in winning cakes or cheap toys (or football games for that matter).Instead, it's cost the Vikings several games and lead them to the 4-9-1 record that will likely relieve Leslie Frazier of his duties as head coach. But what exactly...

Matt Cassel to remain QB of Vikings

getty Matt Cassel will finish out the season as the starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. Cassel has been hot of late winning two of his last three starts and the Vikings are rewarding him by announcing him as the starter for the rest of the season. The move is hardly a surprise as head coach Leslie Frazier is fighting for his job, Christian Ponder is expected to be let...

Matt Cassel, Vikings Torch Eagles Secondary

The Eagles defense came crashing down to Earth in a big way Sunday at the most inopportune time. Image courtesy: Minnesota Vikings. One had to believe that the Philadelphia Eagles defense that had held opponents to fewer than 21 points in each of their last eight games would eventually come back down to Earth.  The fact that Matt Cassel and the Adrian Peterson-less Minnesota Vikings...

Cassel makes his comparative case

The Vikings have operated more efficiently this season with Matt Cassel at quarterback, making his future brighter. The numbers show the difference he has made in the passing game.

Cassel, Vikings stop Eagles 48-30 without Peterson

Matt Cassel passed for 382 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the injury-depleted Vikings to a 48-30 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday, snapping the Eagles' five-game winning streak. With Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart out, Matt Asiata rushed for the first three touchdowns of his career and Greg Jennings caught a career-high 11 passes for 163 yards...

Vikings reflect on Cassel connection

Greg Jennings and Matt Cassel have a strong on-field relationship, no doubt. Jennings wonders how the season might have changed with more of Cassel; Leslie Frazier prefers to look ahead.

Report: Vikings will look to trade Christian Ponder

    According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network,  Matt Cassel has the best chance to be back with the Vikings in 2014.  Josh Freeman likely won’t be back and Christian Ponder will be placed on the trade block. On #Viking QBs: We’re told Matt Cassel has the best chance of the 3-headed monster to return. Josh Freeman gone, Christian Ponder shopped...

Dreaming of Streaming: Week 16

I hope, for the sake of your sanity and your fantasy squad, that you listened to Vegas, dismissed the Eagles’ defense, and rolled with the Jaguars’ defense last week. Philadelphia’s recent strong defensive play evaporated in a smoke that suffocated a million fantasy seasons, as the Eagles’ vulnerable secondary was lit aflame by none other than Matt Cassel. The Eagles didn’t...

Vikings ponder what might have been

(Eds: With AP Photos.) By JON KRAWCZYNSKI AP Sports Writer The Minnesota Vikings play in a division that has been up for grabs all season long. They've had four losses - and a tie - by four points or less. So many factors led to the Vikings (4-9-1) being on the outside looking in as the season winds down. But one appears to stick out more than any other. Matt Cassel has grabbed...

Philadelphia Eagles: Defense Dissected in 48-30 Loss to Minnesota

After going nine straight games without allowing more than 21 points to an offense in a game, the Philly defense is picked clean by Matt Cassel and the Minnesota Vikings to the final count of 48-30. Simply put, the Eagles could not stop the Vikes from driving the ball down the field on them.  This is most surprising seeing as how the number one and two running backs for Minnesota...
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.