After weeks of fans dreaming of his number being called, Jason Garrett finally made the switch to Kellen Moore in the first half of Saturday night's game. It was the first regular-season playing time in the former Boise State standout's 4-year career. Watching him play there were moments when it was evident this was his first time playing, but also some plays that surprised me with both his throws and decision making. Garrett has already committed to Moore going forward.
Let's take a look at how he fared this past Saturday.
To Moore's credit, I saw something I have not seen from our offense since the NYG game on October 25th; the Offense's ability to maintain drives with a backup quarterback. This had a lot to do with Kellen Moore and his trust and gutsiness with his arm. Moore was not perfect by any means but showed the ability to escape the rush, get out of the pocket, and deliver a throw on the run. The game also seemed to slow down for him as each series went by, getting better and better and trusting what he sees. It’s very obvious that Moore does not have the best arm strength in the world, however, he knows that as well.
One of the best things about Moore watching this game is that he understands his limitations. There were several plays where Moore's first read is a hitch or a comeback route, and although the receiver has some separation, he opts not to throw the ball. This is not something we are used to seeing as Cowboy fans, one of Tony Romo’s best gifts and maybe his biggest curse is he thinks he can make any throw. This has led to some amazing Romo magic, but also, some head-scratching Interceptions. Moore has a great feel for his arm and the throws he can and cannot make.
My favorite play in this game was a 3rd and 4 with 7:53 left in the game. The Cowboys spread them out and the Jets showed a cover-2 look. The Jets switch it up after the snap, bringing one safety down to cover Jason Witten and play cover-1 over the top. Cole Beasley beats his man, but because the Jets are playing a zone in the middle of the field, the man initially covering Witten steps into the passing lane in front of Beasley. I don’t believe Moore saw this, because if he had I doubt he would have thrown it, regardless with pressure in his face, Kellen Moore delivers a strike about two inches in front of the outstretched defender's fingertips and into the hands of Beasley for a first down. It was by far his best throw of the night into a very tight window.
Well first and foremost, it is never acceptable or realistic to throw 3 interceptions in a game, one being in the red zone. You can't do that and expect to win a ball game. Let's start with the first one thrown in the second quarter.
The Cowboys spread the jets out, and the Jets bring one safety down in the box with the other out wide ready to double up Dez Bryant. Beasley, Witten, and Terrance Williams all have man single coverage split out on the opposite side of the field. When the ball is snapped the safety shaded towards Dez drops back to play center field. Williams actually beats his man and is open early in the route, However due to the pressure, Moore must avoid the rush, thus allowing Williams to carry up-field too long and the safety to make a play on the ball. After taking his eyes off the secondary to avoid the rush, Moore must read the secondary again. He seemingly chucks the ball up blindly, leading to a big play for the Jets.
On Kellen Moore's Second interception of the night, I believe it was the result of him trying to force the ball to Dez in the red zone. S Calvin Pryor is playing zone coverage in the middle of the field. Dez is drawing the attention of two defenders while Witten, Gavin Escobar, and Beasley are seeing single coverage. Had Moore gone through his reads and surveyed the entire field it would have been an easy 6 for the offense. Beasley had his man beat so bad that Antonio Cromartie had fallen to the floor and Escobar beat his man in the corner of the endzone. We as fans are often critical of the QB for not targeting Dez, but this is one scenario I wish he hadn't.
On the last interception of the night, I give Moore a freebie. With 24 seconds left, down by 3 on your own 33-yard line with no timeouts, it is perfectly reasonable to throw a hail mary. He gave his best player a chance to make a play on a 50-50 ball; how many times have we seen 88 come down with that?
I believe Kellen Moore had a productive game for his first real NFL action. He didn't light the world on fire, by any means, but he did put some drives together and moved the football. Moore is a very smart quarterback who usually sees the field well. I believe the 2 interceptions where he didn't see the safeties were a result of him not being used to the speed of the game. I expect him to learn from his mistakes and get better with each opportunity he's given. He has clear limitations, but his football smarts and instincts are enough for him to be a productive QB, at least for the time being.