Home > Game Recaps, Regular Season > Moore played as expected, and the Panthers win

Moore played as expected, and the Panthers win

The winds of change swiftly blew through the confines of Bank of America Stadium earlier today when the Panthers took the field behind the leadership of 3rd year quarterback Matt Moore. Fans were eager with anticipation to discover what Moore would bring to the table for the Panthers this week after suffering through multiple disasters through the first eleven games of the season with Jake Delhomme under center, and Moore could almost do no wrong in the eyes of a loyal fan base who has stuck with the team through many hard times over the course of this season.

The bottom line is simple: the Panthers have played well below the expectations that the fans had for them this season1. Coming off a 12-4 NFC South title season that ended in an embarrassing loss to the hands of the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs, most fans felt that the Panthers would use that loss as inspiration to come out firing on all cylinders to prove the naysayers wrong — and Delhomme would use his ultimate stink job as inspiration to prove to the world that he was not done, that he had something left in the tank, and that he was still a viable option at the most important position on the football field.

Panthers head coach John Fox believed in his quarterback this season. The front office believed in their quarterback this season (enough that they gave him a contract extension after the Arizona debacle). The players believed in their quarterback this season, showing their support for him when he was going through the most difficult of times.

But, the fans didn’t believe in their quarterback. The fans called for a change after the stink job Delhomme pulled out against the Eagles in week 1. The fans called for a change after the team fell to an 0-3 start heading into the bye week (when everyone thought they should have been 2-1 at worst). The fans called for a change when the Bills came to town and left with a victory2.

But, Fox has stuck by his quarterback through thick and thin. Like him or not, you have to give Fox credit for his loyalty (even if it is to a fault). You can call shenanigans on Fox for saying that Delhomme “gives us the best chance to win”, but you can’t deny the fact that Fox is trying to do something that the fan base has apparently forgotten to do: remember what Delhomme did for us in the past, and instill confidence in Delhomme that he can do it again in the future.

I know, I know — you can’t rely on the past to satisfy what is going on in the present. But from a coach’s standpoint, you have to give him the benefit of the doubt for being a little reluctant to believe that Delhomme’s career is over. He’s done so much for the franchise that he has been given chance after chance to resurrect his career, and even though he has failed at pulling a Lazarus and coming back from the dead — you have to at least respect Fox for giving him ample opportunity to do so.

Even though he’s had several chances to get back to 2003 form, Delhomme has been unsuccessful. We all know he has stunk it up on several occasions this year. There’s no need to rehash that here. That’s not really what this is about. This is about the team as a whole, and what the team should expect from the quarterback position.

Let’s face it: we don’t have Tom Brady or Peyton Manning under center, and unless we get extremely fortunate in the draft this offseason, we won’t have a “Tom Brady” or “Peyton Manning” under center in the near future. What we have is Jake Delhomme, a quarterback who was never supposed to amount to anything more than a career backup, and Matt Moore, who is currently in a situation where he has been waiting for his opportunity to prove that he has what it takes to lead a team in the NFL.

Due to an injury to a finger on Delhomme’s throwing hand, Moore was given that opportunity today against the 1-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers trusted Moore to do one thing: avoid losing the game. He wasn’t instructed to go out and destroy the Bucs’ defense, he wasn’t supposed to lead 99-yard touchdown drives, and he wasn’t supposed to throw for 400 yards.

He was supposed to manage the game and allow the running attack to flourish by taking a few shots deep down field to keep the defense honest enough to respect the running game and eliminate the 8 and 9 man boxes that the Panthers have seen in previous weeks.

When you break it down and realize what Moore was supposed to do, and look at what he actually did — it’s hard to call today’s effort a failure. Sure, he didn’t go out on the field and dominate the game. He didn’t throw for 400 yards (he didn’t even throw for 200), and he didn’t throw 5 touchdown passes.

But, he also didn’t throw 5 interceptions and he didn’t have a terrible day. He led the team on a successful touchdown drive in the first quarter, and he led the team to three successful scoring drives throughout the rest of the game (3 Kasay FG’s)3.

Of course it can be argued that Moore benefited from a solid red-zone defense (especially by Jon Beason)4. But, allow me to counter-argue that he benefited from that red-zone defense because he didn’t turn the ball over and give the opposing offense a short field to work with. In other words: he gave the defense a fighting chance to make plays.

For the stat-heads, Moore’s final stat line looked like this:

14/20, 161 YDS, 0 TD, 1 INT, 73.1 RATING

Sure, those stats don’t jump out as a dominating performance. But he completed 70% of his passes (including a sweet 66 yard bomb to Steve Smith), and he didn’t make many mistakes throwing the ball (the interception was off a tipped pass and unfortunate ricochet for the Panthers). A 73.1 rating isn’t spectacular, but would anyone like to guess what Delhomme’s passer rating is this season? It’s 59.4 in case you really wanted to know. So while Moore wasn’t spectacular — he was better than the man he replaced.

Was he good enough to win the starting job outright? I think so, but I don’t think that Fox agrees with my assessment. I don’t think that his performance stood out as “wow, we have to start this guy for the rest of the season” to Fox and the rest of the coaching staff. I think that once Delhomme’s finger has healed he will get back into the starting lineup, until he either gets hurt again or stinks even worse than he already has this year. (And, it is possible — see Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell, for example.)

But, just because I think that Fox will go back to Delhomme doesn’t mean that I think he would be making the right decision5. I personally believe that Moore should be in the lineup for the rest of the year, if for nothing else but to have a true look at what he can bring to the table. (Today’s game could be an aberration on either side — he could throw for 400 yards every game from here on out, or this could be his best performance — either way, we won’t know unless he plays.)

Hopefully Fox will approach this situation from the perspective of a talent scout instead of a loyal friend who wants to squeeze as much out of his quarterback as he possibly can, and hopefully Fox will be open enough to see that maybe Moore actually gives this team the best chance to win. He may not have been as pretty as we would have hoped, but he was efficient enough to get a win.

And at this point in the season, that’s all that really matters.

———————————————————————————————————

1 – That’s being nice. The mean version: The Panthers have played like dog shit all season.

2 – This was the breaking point for me. We should have destroyed the Bills, and the fact that we didn’t meant something had to be done.

3 – He should get brownie points because he had to lead this team without DeAngelo Williams, which made this game even more difficult for him.

4 – Beason activated beast mode today with 2 (yes, 2) goal-line interceptions.

5 – Translation: it would be the dumbest move he has made all year.

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