Aside from a handful of snaps in the final minutes of the Week 1 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars — when the Kansas City Chiefs were leading 37-19 — it had been a long time since 35-year-old Matt Moore took meaningful snaps as an NFL quarterback.
690 days, to be exact.
A 10-year NFL veteran who had played in 50 games — including 30 starts — Moore hadn’t played in the NFL since his last season with the Miami Dolphins in 2017. He had spent the time since then as the quarterbacks coach at his alma mater: Hart High School in Santa Clarita, California. When Chiefs backup quarterback Chad Henne was injured just before the beginning of the season, the Chiefs asked Moore to come back to the league.
And with the Chiefs leading only 10-6 in the second quarter of their 30-6 victory over the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, suddenly it was Moore’s turn. Starter Patrick Mahomes had left the game with a knee injury, and the Chiefs desperately needed a win after two straight losses.
“I went in there and I don’t even remember what I said,” Moore related after the game, ”but something to let them know we were going to be all right — and kind of got them fired up a little bit. Just said, ‘Hey, I need you guys, you guys need me. Let’s go here. Help me out, you know, help me.’ That’s kind of what I said.”
Moore said it was “pretty evident” that it took a couple of series for him to settle in.
“I shorted some throws and missed some stuff — some stuff I think the quarterback should hit,” he explained. “But I kind of got into a little rhythm there as the game went on. Coach Reid had a nice flow going on with play-calls — and made me feel comfortable as we went on down.”
“We didn’t really have to back down on anything we had called,” said Reid after the game. “We were able to pick up right from where we left off. I was proud of him. He’s not getting any younger, so for him to get in there and do what he did... he did a heck of a job.”
“It is crazy,” said tight end Travis Kelce. “I am pretty sure about three or four of the guys out there on the field had never caught a ball from Matt — even in practice. I know I hadn’t. It was something where we were just going out there and playing within the rules of the offense, trusting the guy to be able to put the ball somewhere.”
“That’s what we are taught,” said wide receiver Tyreek Hill. “No matter who is in the game, no matter if I go down and D-Rob (WR Demarcus Robinson) or someone else comes in the game, they would do the same thing. It’s the same thing with Pat. Matt came in the game with that same mentality. We tried to score on every play. We still have the best offense. We still have our pieces out there.”
Hill, of course, is one of the biggest pieces — and late in the third quarter, Moore hit him with a perfect deep pass that the speedy wideout took for a 57-yard touchdown. But unlike Kelce and some of the others, Hill and Moore had a bit of familiarity.
“Our connection really came when I was hurt,” Hill explained. “I was down and I had time to play scout team with him. I had a chance to go against the defense when he was the quarterback and he was drawing up plays, so we kind of had a connection.”
“He was running and I told myself, ‘Don’t short it,’” recalled Moore. “It ended up working out. He did a great job coming underneath coverage and turning it up — and beat his guy. I just put it up.”
Moore understands that for now, he is the Chiefs’ starting quarterback.
“If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be standing up here,” he told reporters from the podium after the game. “I’ve played in this league before. Just like everybody, I’ve had my ups and downs. Confidence is for sure there. Obviously, it’s going to grow day-by-day — so I feel good.”
“I don’t see anything changing,” said Hill. “Matt is a guy who has been in this league a long time, and Coach Reid trusts him to run this system. I don’t feel like anything is going to change.”
“Unfortunately, we lost one of the best football players in the National Football League,” said Kelce, ”but I think Matty came in full of energy, ready to rock and roll.”
“It’s been a wild half a year,” Moore acknowledged, “but I’m proud to get a win to go in and play with this team — and like I said, get a road win in the division. The circumstances are unfortunate — and I wish [Patrick] well. We all know that. It feels good to come in and win the ball game. All three phases were huge, but it was good to get a win.”
Whether you’re the starting quarterback, the backup quarterback — or even the quarterbacks coach back at Hart High — that’s the job: get the win.
For now, the job belongs to Matt Moore.