Cassel throws three TD passes as Chiefs trounce 49ers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After taking grief for “winning ugly” in their first two games, the Kansas City Chiefs went out and etched a beauty.
Could this bunch be for real?
Dominating in every phase, the Chiefs got three touchdown passes from Matt Cassel and sacked Alex Smith five times Sunday en route to a 31-10 victory over the winless San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs are 3-0 for the first time since 2003.
In just three weeks, Todd Haley’s Chiefs have come up with 30 percent of KC’s combined victory total of the previous 36 months.
“It was a great day for the Chiefs,” linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “Each win, we’re getting more and more confident.”
The offense of the 49ers (0-3), which rolled up 417 yards Monday night against New Orleans, managed only a field goal until the final play from scrimmage.
This game bore no resemblance to the sloppy opening night victory over San Diego or the win over Cleveland last week when the offense did not score a touchdown.
“I’m proud of the guys,” said Haley, in his second season with the Chiefs. “They’re just working hard every day to get a little better.”
Cassel was 16 for 27 for 250 yards. He connected with Dexter McCluster on a 31-yard run-and-catch and fired a perfect 45-yard strike to a wide-open Dwayne Bowe off a fake end-around.
Rookie tight end Tony Moeaki put Kansas City on top 24-3 late in the third with a great falling down, one-handed catch of Cassel’s 18-yard toss.
“It was exciting,” the rookie tight end said. “Matt just threw a really great ball and put it in a great spot. I just tried to make the catch.”
It’s the second time in three games San Francisco has been dominated, which is sure to cause disquiet among fans who expected the 49ers to contend.
“It is stunning because we have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, especially on offense,” Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis said. “We have speed, we have guys that love to get after it. But like I said, we need an answer.”
Coach Mike Singletary hinted at personnel changes.
“Right now, what we are going to do is get back and look at the film and hold off on making any changes until we look at the film and go from there,” he said. “We will look at the film and see what is there and make decisions accordingly.”
Jamaal Charles rushed for 97 yards for the Chiefs and Thomas Jones added 95, including a 3-yard scoring run that made it 31-3 with 3:27 left.
The 49ers wound up with 251 total yards, which included 53 yards on their final two plays. Linebacker Tamba Hali had three sacks as the rejuvenated defense under first-year coordinator Romeo Crennel harried Alex Smith all day and. Frank Gore rushed for just 43 yards on 15 carries and had 102 yards on nine catches.
“We were pretty ineffective the entire game,” Smith said. “I don’t know if there is anything to point to. I think it is everything. We were pretty inept all the way around, throwing the ball, running the ball, protecting, penalties, it was all in there.”
Leading 10-3, the Chiefs in a wildcat formation snapped the ball to Jones. He handed the ball to McCluster, who appeared to be taking off on an end-around. But McCluster turned around and tossed the ball back to Cassel.
The quarterback then pulled up and lofted a perfect strike to Bowe, who was all by himself in the end zone as safety Dashon Goldson frantically tried to get back.
The 49ers were plagued by bad field position all game and started only two drives beyond their own 28. Smith was 23 for 42 for 232 yards. His 41-yarder to Gore on the next-to-last play from scrimmage set up a 12-yard TD strike to Josh Morgan as the final second ticked off the clock.
Brandon Flowers, whose interception return last week gave the Chiefs’ their only touchdown in a victory at Cleveland, made several good plays. He jumped in front of a receiver and hauled in Smith’s pass at the 49ers 31 in the second quarter and twisted his body around to knock down what probably would have been a touchdown pass in the third.
“We’re finding different ways to win,” Flowers said. “This time we got up and the offense just kept pounding it, pounding it.”
On the first play after Flowers’ interception, Cassel flipped a pass to McCluster in the flat and the rookie sped 31 yards into the end zone, breaking Travis LaBoy’s tackle.
Notes: The Chiefs paid homage to longtime broadcaster Bill Grigsby, who started with the team when it came to Kansas City in 1963 and called the first and fourth Super Bowls. … It was Cassel’s first three-TD game as a member of the Chiefs. … The last team to start 3-0 after starting 0-3 the previous year was Buffalo in 2008.