The NFL’s best quarterback comes to town on Sunday leading the New England Patriots as he usually does, and on paper this game against the Miami Dolphins seems like a lopsided whitewash about to happen because the home team is trotting its backup quarterback out there to match up with one of the greatest of all time.
So why aren’t the Miami Dolphins panicking?
Why isn’t there any hand-wringing at the team’s Davie headquarters?
One reason is because the Dolphins, the second-best team in the AFC East, are starting the second best quarterback in the division on Sunday.
Moore is so far playing the best football of his career. Think of it, when Ryan Tannehill went down with a partially torn ACL and MCL on Dec. 11, the smart money was on the Dolphins folding. Except that Moore saved the victory against Arizona in the game Tannehill exited with the injury. Then Moore beat the New York Jets in New York. Then he beat the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo.
So he’s 2-0 as a starter with one save.
If this guy were a pitcher, he’d be down the road toward a Cy Young award.
“You go four-and-a-half, five years without playing, and then jump in a game and go and win it, and then come and start two other games on the road in the division and win those, it’s been impressive,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Wednesday.
Moore has delivered in impressive fashion. He’s thrown 53 passes and completed 31 of them. That’s a 58.5 percent completion percentage that could probably use some improving. He’s thrown six TD passes and 2 interceptions -- very good. His quarterback rating is 113.4, which is outstanding.
And he’s at a whopping 9.62 yards per attempt. Brady is at 8.22 while obviously having more attempts. The better QBs are around 7.9 to 7.7 yards per attempt.
Moore the backup is doing more than holding down the proverbial fort for Tannehill. He’s, like, reinforcing walls and building an extra barracks.
“Obviously experience in this league is hard to come by, so any time you can get live reps, it’s only going to make you better,” Moore said. “You’re going to learn from it. Things are going to go bad and you learn from those, and then things are going to go well and you learn from that too. These reps are extremely valuable.”
Yeah, um, these reps have kept the Dolphins’ season from derailing. And listening to Gase talk, it’s as if the coach expects things to get better. It’s as if Gase thinks Moore will get better as the quarterback and the play-caller get more synchronized.
“Every game that we go we learn something different about each other, as far as what either I need to remind him, or his communication to me of something he didn’t like or he does like,” Gase said. “The good thing about having a guy that’s been around for some time is that he’s not going to be shy about anything. He’s going to tell you exactly what he thinks and he’s always going to be prepared.
“I never have to worry about anything with the game plan. If he doesn’t like something, he’s going to tell me quickly, which he never says he doesn’t like anything. He’s exactly what you hope guys will try to become at all positions -- just that professionalism, always being ready to go.”
And that, too, is impressive.
The Dolphins are not talking much about Ryan Tannehill’s status. Gase, asked numerous times about the QB, says he doesn’t know anything that’s going on because he hasn’t asked anyone.
Well, Tannehill is making steady progress. He’s wearing a sleeve over the injured left knee. He recently sought and received treatment in Pensacola at the facility run by Dr. James Andrews to try to help speed the healing of the MCL.
And it is the MCL more than the ACL that is the big issue now.
(Remember, the partially torn ACL does not regenerate but the MCL does. So Tannehill is trying to make that regeneration go as well and quickly as possible while sitting in on team meetings and preparing every week).
No, Tannehill isn’t playing this week. But the Dolphins have a playoff game the weekend of Jan. 7-8. That’s almost four weeks after the original injury. It is not impossible that Tannehill could play then.
Yes, that’s a big ask to think the starter could be ready by that game. And yet, Tannehill and the Dolphins are doing everything they can to try to make that happen.
And in the meantime, the Dolphins are going into Sunday’s game against the NFL’s best quarterback with a pretty good quarterback of their own -- Matt Moore.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero