MIAMI GARDENS – Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler exited Sunday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the end of the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and never returned. At this juncture, the Buccaneers had just scored 17 unanswered points, to take a commanding 20-7 lead to end the first half.
Coach Adam Gase made backup quarterback Matt Moore aware that he’d be starting the second half with about five minutes remaining during halftime, but many of his teammates had no idea until they saw Moore in the game.
“We really didn’t know [Matt Moore would start the second half], Jarvis Landry said. “Everybody was heading out [of the locker room]. Usually we do have our little meetings, which Jay [Cutler] was a part of, then Matt was the next man up.”
While his teammates were shocked to see him enter the game, they had a great deal of trust in Moore, and he rewarded them by leading his team to two consecutive drives, which ended in field goals. With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Moore hit Kenny Stills for a 61-yard touchdown to tie the game 20-20, but a last minute defensive collapse allowed the Buccaneers to kick a field goal to reclaim the lead and secure a victory over the Dolphins.
After tying the game at 20, many fans got the sense that Moore would again save the day, as he’s done on previous occasions. Last season, Moore’s fourth quarter field goal drive in Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals kept the Dolphins playoff chances alive. He again proved to be a clutch performer this season when he led the Dolphins to a 31-28 victory over the New York Jets in Week 7 when Cutler left the game with broken ribs.
Unfortunately, a comeback win following Cutler’s second significant injury of the 2017 season wasn’t in the cards this time around. However, Moore’s 282 yards and one touchdown in one half of work was indeed emblematic of a quarterback whose play inspires teammates, despite not being the starting quarterback.
“It’s just something … Matt is just … He knows how to get to us, I guess,” said running back Damien Williams. “He has been around us a lot. So he kind of knows how to work guys, who has the motor. He knows how to get guys going.”
Kenny Stills, who had a career high 180 yards and one touchdown on just seven receptions believes Moore’s trust in his wide receivers allows him to have success when defenses attempt to blitz him and force him into a mistake.
“I think sometimes the defense sees Matt [Moore] come in and they think, ‘Backup quarterback let’s put some pressure on him.’ Matt does a good job of getting rid of the ball and letting us make plays.”
Landry, who also totaled a season-high 95 yards and one touchdown on six receptions said that Moore’s seven-year tenure with the Dolphins has afforded him an opportunity to develop chemistry with his wide receivers.
“Matt’s a guy we are familiar with. We didn’t really know what was going on in the Jay [Cutler] situation. We just so happened to get the ball after the half so he went out there and we didn’t miss a beat. I don’t feel like we did.”
If Cutler is unable to play against the New England Patriots (7-2) in Week 11, Moore will need to be as efficient as he was in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Bucs in order to give the Dolphins a chance to win. He throws with very good touch and delivers the ball with tremendous anticipation.
Last but certainly not least, even if he’s facing two deep safeties, he’ll still challenge defenses vertically and trusts his wide receivers to make a play. As a result of his trust in his receivers, they reciprocate by trusting him each and every time his number is called.