Earlier this season, there were chants in Hard Rock Stadium of “We want Moore,” with fans expressing their frustration with the Jay Cutler-led offense’s stagnation. The sports cliche states the favorite player on a roster is the backup quarterback, and that was the case for the Miami Dolphins, with Matt Moore seen as a potential savior. When Cutler broke ribs in Week 7, suddenly Moore came into the game and led a come-from-behind victory over the New York Jets.
The next week, Cutler’s ribs were not yet ready for a Thursday Night Football contest, and Moore started against the Baltimore Ravens. He went 25-for-44 for 176 yards with two interceptions and a passer rating of 47.2. The Dolphins lost the game 40-0.
They have lost the three games since that contest as well, though Cutler was able to return for all three starts. Last week, he sustained a concussion in the first half of the team’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and, again, Moore came into the game and sparked the offense, climbing back to a 20-20 tie before a field goal with four seconds remaining and a touchdown on a fumbled lateral as time expired gave the Buccaneers a 10 point win.
Now, Moore will be starting for the second time this season, and he will be facing the AFC East leading, defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Can he play better than he did last start?
Moore brings more of a gunslinger mentality to the Dolphins’ offense, something that, while Cutler has a powerful arm, has disappeared as the season progressed under their 2017 starter. Moore will thrown the ball deep, using the speed of Kenny Stills and the size and athleticism of DeVante Parker to make big plays, then utilize the hands and shiftiness of Jarvis Landry underneath to try to create after the catch. Moore plays with a more attacking style than Cutler, who appears to be trying to play more not to lose than taking chances to win.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami’s starting quarterback who was lost to a torn ACL in training camp, was eighth in the league last year with a 7.7 yards per attempt average. Cutler is 33rd in the league this year at 5.9. Moore, while not qualifying for the leaderboard, is averaging 6.9 yards per attempt this season. Moore is closer to Tannehill, and what this offense should be, than Cutler at this point - if he can continue to play up to the reserve quarterback we have seen in relief efforts and not the starting quarterback we saw against the Ravens.
Can Moore play that way? Will he be ready for today’s game?
“I think it was good that he actually got a week to practice considering the last time he got a start we were in a walkthrough phase playing a Thursday night game,” head coach Adam Gase said this week about Moore’s preparation for the game. “I think when Matt goes through a week like this, it’s really beneficial to him because the reps are very few during the season and it just helps kind of speed up his mindset of how things are going to look, what the actual look – the speed of the looks – are going to be, just kind of how they play. I think it was good for him.”
“Obviously repetition, experience, those things are big,” Moore explained of his being able to workout this week rather than just complete walkthroughs heading into the Ravens game. “You get to see the looks all week, regardless, whether you’re taking the reps or you’ve got to take the mental reps as a backup. To get them today was good and it will be beneficial, for sure”
The Dolphins and Patriots will kickoff at 1pm ET, with Moore under center for Miami. Will he be able to rebound from the Ravens game? Will the offense continue to look more like an attacking offense?
Matt Moore could be the key player in Miami’s chances at staying with the league’s second-ranked offense (first in passing offense, fourth in scoring offense).