KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The ball is spinning through the air and heading straight to Dwayne Bowe, who has gotten open in the end zone. Bowe goes up. The ball comes down.
But he drops it. Then he drops another ball on the very next play.
Back in Kansas City, fans are furious with the former LSU star, just as they have been in the past when he dropped passes or onside kicks in a career that's never taken flight since he was a first-round draft pick in 2007.
But without doubt, it would have taken some heat off a quarterback who is also sinking deeper and deeper into the fans' doghouse. Cassel will head into Sunday's game at Houston tied for 27th among NFL quarterbacks in total passing yards. His passer rating of 74.0 is 25th and in spite of the fact Kansas City is 3-1 and leading the AFC West, people are calling for both the quarterback and the inconsistent wide receiver to be replaced.
Their calls are not likely to be answered. Coach Todd Haley spent most of his Monday media session stoutly defending both, insisting that Cassel and Bowe, just like the entire team, are on the upswing and getting better.
"Our quarterback played a smart football game, led the team in the fashion he will have to lead it," Haley said. "No. 1, we're 3-1 in the first quarter of the season, which is exactly what we want, or what we will go into the next quarter feeling good about.
"Can he be more efficient? Absolutely. But his arrow is without a doubt pointing up. This guy is making progress."
Cassel's stats are not all bad. He's been sacked only three times in four games, which indicates improved play by the offensive line but also points toward his correcting a career-long tendency to hold onto the ball too long. Plus, he's thrown only three interceptions in four games. Against the Rams, he missed some open receivers as well as had a couple of passes dropped while completing 16 of 29 for 156 yards.
"No sacks. No interceptions," Haley said. "I think there's only two quarterbacks in the league right now with less interceptions than Matt, and their names are Manning and Brady. So that's what I'm asking, first and foremost, to protect the football and give us chances to win, this young transitioning team chances to win, and that's what he's doing and that's how he's going about his business. I thought he showed great composure yesterday. I thought he did a terrific job of leading the team."
"Dwayne Bowe did so many good things in that game, so many good things," he said. "He played smart, he understood the game plan, what he was supposed to do throughout that game plan and he did it at a high level. It just so happens he had an opportunity to make a big play, which is part of his job description, as he did two weeks before. He didn't make it. But Dwayne's arrow is going up. There is no doubt in my mind."
In two road games this year, a victory at Cleveland and the loss at Indianapolis, the Chiefs have failed to score an offensive touchdown.
To make the touchdown breakthrough on the road will simply require better execution, Haley said.
"We had some opportunities to do that yesterday and just didn't do it, for a multiple of different reasons. One of them being we've got to catch the ball," Haley said. "That's fundamental football we will continue to work on. Then you've just got to get it done."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press