Cassel passes test

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

If and when he returns to training camp next summer, Tom Brady isn't going to have to worry that he will be the next Drew Bledsoe.

No, the injured New England Patriots quarterback isn't about to lose his starting job to his vanilla replacement Matt Cassel.

But for the time being, the replacement might be just good enough to get by, proving that it's too early for the defending AFC champions to write off the season just yet.

Cassel, who incredible as it is to believe hadn't started a game since he was in high school, won his first start as a pro yesterday, "leading" the Patriots to a 19-10 sleeper over the N.Y. Jets.

He did it despite underthrowing a wide-open Randy Moss in the fourth quarter by a good 10 yards. And he did it despite showing an inability at times to avoid the sack.

But by favouring safe over spectacular for the duration of a pedestrian effort for the unheralded understudy of the reigning league MVP, he let the rest of the Patriots do their job.

So what if it took four Stephen Gostkowski field goals and if the defence played the biggest role in the win?

At least Cassel can say he matched Jets quarterback Brett Favre and may have even one-upped him. While Cassel took care of the ball completing 16 of 23 passes in a turnover-free afternoon, it was a fourth-quarter interception by Favre that set up a late New England score to seal the result.

We won't forget that the Patriots have defeated only the Chiefs and the Jets to extend their regular-season unbeaten streak to 21 games. But Cassel isn't going to be a train wreck either, convincing us that the pre-eminent team of this decade isn't finished yet, either.

FIT THE BILLS

It's becoming increasingly clear what will be the most anticipated football game at Toronto's Rogers Centre this year (hint, after Friday's embarrassing loss to Winnipeg, it doesn't involve the Argos.)

After an impressive 2-0 start, it's starting to look like the Buffalo Bills' Dec. 7 Southern Ontario date against Miami will mean something.

Not only have the Bills beaten two playoff teams from last season, yesterday's 20-16 comeback on the road against Jacksonville was done with style and spine. And in the process, a young quarterback may have come of age.

Trent Edwards already was having a decent afternoon before facing a crucial third and six in the late going of the fourth quarter. Then came the two biggest passes of his promising young career.

The first was a 37-yard strike to Lee Evans to the left sideline for a big first down to keep the drive and the game alive. And on the next play, the second-year QB lobbed a perfect ball to rookie James Hardy in the corner of the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown completion, the capper of a 20-for-25 effort for 239 yards.

It's only two games, but with the Raiders at home next week before road dates against St. Louis and Arizona, the Bills could easily be 5-0 by the time they reach their bye week on Oct. 12.

COMEBACK KIDS

The San Diego Chargers, who trailed 21-3 at halftime yesterday, appeared to be jobbed on a controversial call by official Ed Hoculi, who was quick with his whistle to negate what would might have been ruled a red-zone fumble by quarterback Jay Cutler.

The Broncos scored a touchdown on the next play to cut the Chargers lead to 38-37. Rather than roll the dice in overtime, Denver coach Mike Shanahan went straight for the jugular and, after a successful two-point conversion, suddenly the gutted Chargers were left with an 0-2 record.

SUICIDE STRATEGY

This may be the easiest season ever to stay alive in the suicide pool -- just pick who ever is playing the putrid St. Louis Rams.


Videos

Photos