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Cassel needs to think fast on his feet

October 20, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

If the New England Patriots want to hang on to their recent history of winning at home, their quarterback needs to let something go.

The football.

Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, thrust into the starting role after Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener, has already been sacked 19 times. That's second in the NFL to the 23 of San Francisco's J.T. O'Sullivan (heading into Week 7), and only two fewer times than Brady was sacked all last season.

So making quick decisions will be the emphasis for Cassel and the Patriots tonight when they play host to Denver at Gillette Stadium.

Finding and hitting open receivers before the rush gets to him hasn't been a problem for Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been sacked just twice this season. He has thrown for at least one touchdown in each game this season and has a 94.8 passer rating.

Cutler could have a big night against a struggling defense. The Patriots have given up 89 points in losing two of the last three games. New England's offense has scored 20 points or more only once in the past five games.

There have been some rumblings that the Patriots should try replacing Cassel with rookie Kevin O'Connell, but so far Coach Bill Belichick will have none of it.

"Matt is our starting quarterback," he flatly told reporters this week. "He gives our team the best chance to win."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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