Kansas City, Mo. The lazy loudmouth has vanished. In his place is a mature, hardworking Dwayne Bowe who has caught at least one touchdown pass in a team-record six straight games and helped propel Kansas City into first place.
Once considered a huge disappointment, Bowe caught two scores Sunday as the Chiefs remained unbeaten at home with a 31-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, who lost their fifth in a row. Coupled with Oakland’s loss to Pittsburgh, the victory gave Kansas City (6-4) a one-game lead in the AFC West and helped erase the stench of last week’s blowout loss in Denver.
Bowe, a first-round pick in 2007, even broke a self-imposed media blackout that had lasted from the first day of training camp.
“It’s always fun to see you,” a smiling Bowe told reporters. “I just had to reinvent myself. That’s why I had to step back for a little while.”
Bowe had six catches for 109 yards and two TDs. In the six games since he landed in the doghouse in fans’ minds for dropping a touchdown pass in a loss to Indianapolis, he’s amassed 563 yards receiving and caught 10 touchdown throws from Matt Cassel.
The six-game touchdown record, he said, means little.
“Not yet, not until we win it all,” he said. “When we win it all, I’ll look back on this game and say, ‘Wow! I did that.’ But now my head is down and I’m going to keep going.”
Thomas Jones also had two touchdowns for the Chiefs, who are 5-0 at home though attendance has slumped at refurbished Arrowhead Stadium.
The two-time defending NFC West champion Cardinals (3-7) fell 21⁄2 games behind Seattle.
The losing streak is Arizona’s longest since an eight-game slide in 2006 led to Ken Whisenhunt replacing Dennis Green as coach. The Cardinals, struggling to replace key departed players such as Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and linebacker Karlos Dansby, are also in danger of finishing below .500 for the first time under Whisenhunt.
“We are not really a confident team right now,” Whisenhunt said. “One of the things we have always been able to feed on is certain individuals, but I’m not specifying individuals, players making plays. We had our chances to do that. We had more dropped balls today than I can remember with this football team. That is not something that we have ever done before.”
Bowe caught scoring passes from Cassel of 1 and 38 yards and Jones scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards.
The Cardinals got their only touchdown, a 3-yard catch by Larry Fitzgerald, on the final play of the game.
“We were real upset about that,” said safety Kendrick Lewis. “The defensive mentality was, ‘Don’t let them in.’ We hadn’t let them in the whole game. But he made a play. We got out with a ‘W,’ that’s all that’s important.”
Bowe’s emergence as a confident, consistent wide receiver is becoming one of the biggest success stories of the year for Kansas City. He spent his first couple of seasons advertising himself as “The Show” and mixing good plays with bad ones.
Cassel saw Bowe beginning to emerge long before the Indianapolis game, going back to last spring when he attended a receivers camp with Fitzgerald and other NFL stars.
“He’s been in shape, had a great training camp and it carried over,” Cassel said. “You could see over time his confidence has grown tremendously.”
Bowe got every yard of a 38-yard march for Kansas City’s initial touchdown, first with a catch over the middle in which he fought to the 1. Then, after two running plays failed, the former LSU star got free in the end zone for the 1-yard TD pass from Cassel.
Cassel converted twice on third down in a third-quarter drive, hitting Jamaal Charles for 11 yards on one play and connecting with Bowe for 14 yards on third-and-3 from the 43. Charles got loose on a 39-yard run to set up Jones’ second TD.
With 4:20 left in the game, Bowe got open in the secondary, caught the ball at the 18, twisted away from tacklers and danced into the end zone. But unlike past years, he did not celebrate.
“Fitz don’t celebrate at all, so I’m just following (his) footsteps,” Bowe said.
Until Derek Anderson’s TD pass to Fitzgerald, the Cardinals managed field goals by Jay Feely of 36 and 29 yards.
“Once again, this is getting old,” Anderson said. “We’ve just got to find a way, dig deep, continue to keep working the way we have been working.”
Cassel was 15 of 24 for 193 yards. Anderson was 25 of 46 for 295 yards.
NOTES: Chris Burford and Otis Taylor had shared the Chiefs record with TDs in five straight games. ... Chiefs coach Todd Haley injured his right leg during practice two weeks ago and is wearing a heavy brace. ... Arizona wide receiver Early Doucet took a blow to the head in the second quarter and left the game with what Whisenhunt described as a concussion.