Kellen Moore’s First Start Defined By Struggles, As Cowboys Fall In Buffalo 16-6
A December day in windy Buffalo was hardly the ideal circumstances for a quarterback’s NFL inauguration. But, then again, few things have been ideal for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015.
Squandering opportunities with supreme regularity through the autumn months left Jason Garrett’s team with a 4-10 record, and with little alternative but to give 6-0, 200-pound Kellen Moore the ball to finish the season.
The Cowboys never figured out how to win with veterans Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel in the lineup, a logical reason for Garrett to go with someone of Moore’s pedigree. Moore left Boise State in 2011 as a fifty-game winner, an NCAA record. Of course, unprecedented success in college doesn’t guarantee similar results in the NFL. Just ask David Greene. He won 42 games at Georgia, before flopping at the professional level with Seattle.
Moore had made a living these past four years riding the bench inside domed-stadiums teams with Detroit and Dallas. On Sunday, he gave up a clipboard for a place in the huddle on a wet, slick, wind-blown field inside Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The first left-handed starting quarterback in Cowboys history wasn’t playing for a spot in the playoffs in a couple of weeks. But he was playing for a spot on July’s training camp roster, a worthy ambition for everyone associated with this current team.
Moore got off to a fast start against the Bills, showing a strong connection with wide receiver Brice Butler, who saw extensive action in Dez Bryant’s absence. Moore found Butler twice on the opening drive for 30 yards, leading to a Dallas field goal. Later in the second quarter, Moore went back to Butler in the middle of the field, this time for a gain of 34 yards. A few moments later, Bailey booted a second field goal through the uprights to tie the game at 6-apiece.
But for all of the good that Moore accomplished in the first half of play, completing 7-of-15 passes for 116 yards, his efforts were still largely minimized by the supporting cast around him. Multiple penalties along the Dallas offensive line ruined one drive. A rare Bailey miss, from 50 yards out, ruined another. Moore’s only true mistake of the game was a costly one, as it ended another promising scoring opportunity. With Dallas trailing 9-6 in the third quarter and driving at the Buffalo 26, Moore’s pass over the middle was slightly behind Butler, leading to a deflection and an interception by linebacker A.J. Tarpley.
That errant pass was one of several that kept the Dallas offense grounded throughout much of the second-half. Dallas totaled just 6 first downs and 70 passing yards after the intermission, and were outscored 10-0.
Jerry Jones can’t go on the radio this week and pretend that Moore was a quarterbacking surgeon against Buffalo. During their recent slide which saw the Bills drop four of five games, the Buffalo defense allowed an average of 26 points per game. The Cowboys scored just 6 on Sunday. The fact that Moore couldn’t generate a touchdown drive should also be disconcerting to the Cowboys owner. Moore is only the third different Dallas quarterback to achieve such a feat in 2015, so Jones can’t be too critical.
What Jones should acknowledge is that Moore provided the Cowboys offense with no less of a spark than what the pair of alleged professionals did before him. That at least should keep him in the saddle for the start of next weekend’s season finale versus Washington.
In another down-to-the-wire contest, Kellen Moore gave the Cowboys some hope. Enough to chew on, enough to dream on, but not enough to get his team over the top.