Dolphins Season Now Rides on Veteran Moore

Nov 27, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) looks on before a game against San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) looks on before a game against San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

With Ryan Tannehill’s health in question, the Miami Dolphins playoff hopes now rest on the shoulders of veteran backup quarterback Matt Moore.

A day after leading the Miami Dolphins 44 yards down the field, setting up the game-winning field goal by Andrew Franks as time expired, Matt Moore’s good fortune continued as he and his wife, Tara, welcomed their third child into the world.

Moore, who came in for an injured Ryan Tannehill in the third quarter of Sunday’s 26-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals, has just as much experience being an NFL quarterback as he does being a father. Playing in his tenth NFL season, Moore has spent his last six years dawning the aqua and orange. Dolphins’ fans have grown accustomed to Moore’s big smile, backwards hats, and childish sense of humor on the sideline of Dolphins games.

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This Saturday night, however, the Dolphins will be counting on Moore to be more than a cheerleader from the sidelines. Instead, they’ll be counting on him to keep their playoff hopes alive—a tough task for anyone, let alone a ten-year vet.

Labeled a “gunslinger” by most, including several of his current teammates, Moore has a tendency to play “loose.” As we witnessed Sunday, Moore’s style of play, which often resembles a schoolboy playing a pickup game on the playground, is wildly different from Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

As many Dolphins’ fans remember, the last time Matt Moore saw an extended amount of playing time was in 2011. That season, Moore, who came in for a then injured Chade Henne, started 12 games for the Dolphins, finishing with a 6-6 record. During his time as the Dolphins’ signal caller, Moore proved to be an adequate starter. He finished the 2011 season completing 60 percent of his passes for 2,497 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.

In order to keep their playoff hopes alive, it’s imperative for the Dolphins to keep winning. Despite putting up decent numbers in his 2011 campaign with the Miami Dolphins, Moore’s style of play haunts his team and brings his reputation as a “gunslinger” into question. In short, “adequate” is not enough at this stage.

Aside from his six interceptions, Moore lost six of his 14 fumbles, and was sacked 36 times. In truth, Moore’s style of play has the aching tendency to give you heart palpitations. Every spectacular throw Moore makes deep downfield or through a tight-window is followed by a head scratcher, accompanied by a few shouted obscenities. Like it or not, that’s his M.O.

The Dolphins remaining schedule isn’t easy; it entails two road games against divisional rivals, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, followed by a season finale at home against the king of the AFC East, the New England Patriots.

Currently, the Dolphins (8-5) are on the outside looking in on the AFC playoffs. In order for Dolphins to make it to the postseason, they’ll need help. Besides the most obvious assistance (winning), the Dolphins need the Broncos, which currently hold the AFC’s sixth and final playoff spot, to lose. Luckily for Miami, the Broncos have a tough road ahead of them: they play at home against the Patriots; on the road against the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs the following Sunday night; and finish the season at home against a very good division rival, the Oakland Raiders.

Given the importance of the next three games and with Tannehill’s timetable for return unknown, it will be interesting to see what direction the Dolphins’ offense heads in during the penultimate chapter of their 2016 season. The Dolphins mantra, “one game at a time,” will continue, but at what cost? Will the Dolphins forfeit their game plan and be more conservative?

Despite their record (4-9), the Jets are more than capable of diminishing the Dolphins playoff chances Saturday night in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It’s going to be tough, but this isn’t Matt Moore’s first rodeo. If you can recall, Moore has rattled off three-straight victories before. In 2011, after losing his first three games as the Dolphins starting quarterback, Moore won three-straight in impressive fashion.

During that three-game stretch, Moore completed over 70 percent of his passes for 613 yards, six touchdowns, and just one interception. Even more impressively, during that span, the Dolphins outscored their opponents (Chiefs, Redskins, and Bills) 86-20. Moore, the calm, cool, California-kid has proven himself once before. But can he do it again when the stakes are even higher?

Right now, the Dolphins resemble the crew of a rickety ship on the verge of capsizing. Will their playoff dreams sink, or will they bail water and rescue their season? The answer to the question begins Saturday night.

But as we’ve witnessed throughout the season, this Dolphins team is capable of proving its critics wrong. In a season full of surprises, maybe the Dolphins will continue to do what they’ve been so good at this year: surprising us.