SEATTLE — Matt Cassel finally got his chance to show Pete Carroll firsthand how good he could be as a starting quarterback.
Cassel threw four touchdown passes, three of them to Dwayne Bowe, who extended his streak of at least one TD catch to seven straight games, and the Chiefs stayed on top of the AFC West with an impressive 42-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Cassel finished 22 of 33 for 233 yards. Bowe caught 13 passes, tying his career high set just two weeks ago against Denver, for 170 yards. It was the first three-touchdown game of Bowe’s career.
Cassel was aided by the best running game in the NFL that gained 270 yards. Jamaal Charles ran for 173 on 22 carries and added a 3-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter that gave the Chiefs a 28-17 lead.
Backup defensive tackle Shaun Smith added a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the second quarter and Kansas City won its second straight overall and ninth consecutive game against NFC West opponents.
More importantly, the Chiefs (7-4) remained on top of the division.
Seattle (5-6) fell into a tie for first place in the NFC West with St. Louis.
Matt Hasselbeck threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. Ben Obomanu had five catches for 159 yards.
Cassel was the kid Carroll didn’t pick to be the starter at Southern California when Carson Palmer left. Carroll instead went with Matt Leinart, who was part of the most dominant run in college football in recent history. Cassel was the backup who barely saw mop-up duty.
Leinart is now the third string QB in Houston and Cassel is quickly growing into a star.
He completed 15 of 20 in the first half, picking apart Seattle’s pass defense, connecting with Bowe on touchdowns of 7 yards in the first quarter and 36 yards in the second when Seattle defensive backs Lawyer Milloy and Marcus Trufant missed coverage.
On Seattle’s next series after Charles’ score, Hasselbeck fumbled while being sacked by Derrick Johnson and the ball was recovered by Tamba Hali at the Seattle 22.
Three plays later, Cassel threw a quick slant to Bowe, who went in for a 9-yard TD, sending much of Qwest Field to the exits.
Thomas Jones added 68 yards as the Chiefs topped 200 yards rushing for the fifth time this season. Even Cassel got in on the act, running for 28 yards. Seattle had just 20 yards rushing.
Seattle still has the benefit of playing in the mediocre NFC West, but even that margin of error is closing. Seattle dropped its fourth in the past five games after a 4-2 start and was booed in the closing moments for a second straight home game.
And for one half, the Seahawks were completely inept. Seattle managed just 71 yards in the first half, the fourth time this season they were limited to under 100 yards in the first half.
The Seahawks’ only touchdown in the first half came when Kennard Cox went untouched to block Dustin Colquitt’s punt and rookie Earl Thomas returned it 10 yards for a touchdown.
Seattle had one glimmer of hope despite its struggling offense. Charles fumbled late in the half at the Chiefs 42 and the Seahawks converted that into a 43-yard field goal from Olindo Mare to cut the deficit to 21-10.
On the first play of the second half, Hasselbeck connected with Obomanu on a 52-yard completion, nearly doubling the Seahawks total offensive output in the first half. Hasselbeck followed with a 12-yard pass to Chris Baker and suddenly a 14-point lead was down to four.
But that was as close as Seattle got. Hasselbeck added an 87-yard touchdown pass to Obomanu early in the fourth quarter that made it a two-possession game, but Kansas City answered with a 10-play drive capped by Cassel’s TD pass to Tony Moeaki.
Seattle was without leading receiver Mike Williams. Seattle ran just seven plays in the first quarter and didn’t pick up a first down until late in the first half.
Williams was questionable with foot strain and went through a workout about two hours before the game, but was among Seattle’s inactives.