Indianapolis Matt Cassel finally figured out how to beat the Colts on Sunday.
He used the unbeatable combination of Dwayne Bowe’s size and Steve Breaston’s elusiveness.
Cassel threw four touchdown passes — two each to Bowe and Breaston — to rally the Chiefs from a 17-point deficit for a 28-24 victory over winless Indianapolis.
“He is a guy I trust with all my heart — and the ball,” Cassel said of Bowe. “Then you get Steve Breaston, who continues to make so many plays. They compliment each other very well. If you’re going to double one, you can’t double the other.”
Without paying a steep price — as the Colts learned.
Even Peyton Manning’s return to the sideline couldn’t detract from the impact of this big-play tandem. Kansas City’s comeback was the largest since Todd Haley took over as coach in 2009 and rekindled images of how the Chiefs (2-3) won the AFC West last season.
Cassel was an efficient 21-of-29 for 257 yards with a rating of 138.9.
Bowe caught seven passes for 128 yards and simply outmuscled the much smaller Jacob Lacey for many of them. Breaston caught four passes for 50 yards but made a spectacular effort to get into the end zone at the end of the first half and a terrific move against a backup cornerback to give the Chiefs their only lead with 5:15 left.
Jackie Battle also ran 19 times for 119 yards, enough to give the Chiefs their first win at Indy.
“We just started doing things better,” coach Todd Haley said. “That’s three weeks in a row with strong second halves. That’s our conditioning and hard work paying off in our favor. We did a good job wearing them out.”
Indy, one of three winless teams left in the league, is 0-5 for the first time since 1997 and has lost five straight for the first time in a decade.
But this one was not Curtis Painter’s fault.
With Manning around to advise to Painter and the receivers between series, Painter delivered a brilliant first half. He opened the game 12 of 17 for 237 yards with two TDs and a near-perfect 152.2 rating. A series of second-half drops prevented the Colts from moving the ball, though, and Painter finished 15 of 27 for 277 yards.
He even managed to avoid getting sacked despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line.
This time, it was the defense that broke down.
“The offense was doing a great job in the first half, and we just kind of let down,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. “We blew this.”
Bowe was the primary reason.
He burned Lacey on a slant for a 41-yard touchdown in the first half, a play that seemed to spark Kansas City’s moribund offense. He repeatedly broke tackles for first downs. And when Cassel needed a play on first-and-goal from the Indy 5, of course he went to Bowe, who caught the TD pass despite Lacey’s deflection and pass interference penalty. That made the score 24-21.
Two series later, with Bowe as the set-up guy, Cassel went the other direction and found Breaston matched up against rookie cornerback Chris Rucker. It was no contest — an 11-yard TD reception for the go-ahead score.
“Take your hats off to them,” Colts receiver Reggie Wayne said. “They came out with a good game plan in the third quarter and they executed it well. I feel like we should be walking out of this game with a ‘W,’ but we didn’t get that done.”
Yes, Indy dominated early.
Painter threw a 6-yard TD pass to Pierre Garcon on the opening series and after a 53-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri, hooked up with Garcon on a 67-yard TD pass to make it 17-0 less than 20 minutes into the game. Garcon finished with five catches for 125 yards.
Then, after Bowe’s long TD catch, Painter led the Colts down the field again, setting up Delone Carter for a 3-yard TD run that made it 24-7 with 1:09 left in the half.
That was too much time for Cassel and Breaston, who made a nifty stop just before stepping out of bounds and dived across the goal line for a 16-yard score to make it 24-14 at the half.
Painter had one chance to rally the Colts late, but his fourth-down pass was knocked away by Jon McGraw and the Chiefs held on for their second straight win.
“This is a big win, a step in the right direction,” Cassel said. “We kept our focus, and you could see the end result was very positive for us.”
Notes: Manning stayed about four to five yards back from the sideline and well down the field from plays. He was dressed in khaki pants, a white Colts shirt and a blue baseball hat. ... Pat McAfee hit the crossbar on his second kickoff of the game. ... Joseph Addai left the game with a right hamstring injury in the first quarter and did not return. ... Chiefs running back Le’Ron McClain injured his neck late in the first half. ... Carter’s TD was the first of his career. ... Cassel has had three straight games with quarterback ratings over 100.