O’HARA: Kellen Moore steals the show

Posted Aug 9, 2014

Kellen Moore, the Lions’ No. 3 quarterback the last two years, closed the show and exited the stage in the role of the hero.

It was Johnny Football’s night to steal all the glow and glory from anyone who was trying to make an impression or win a job in one of the NFL’s preseason games.

And for theatre and style points, Johnny Manziel got the attention as the star attraction of Saturday night’s preseason game between the Lions and Cleveland Browns at Ford Field.

But it was Kellen Moore, the Lions’ No. 3 quarterback the last two years, who closed the show and exited the stage in the role of the hero.

Moore injected life into a Lions offense that grinded its gears in neutral all night. He finished off a game-winning drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Corey Fuller with 1:05 left to give the Lions a 13-12 victory.

Moore did what winning quarterbacks do late in games. He rebounded from adversity when one scoring drive blew up on a fumble on a low snap from rookie center Travis Swanson. The Lions had first and goal at the Browns’ eight-yard line with 2:47 to play when that scoring chance disappeared.

No sweat, Moore would say later. All he wanted was a second chance.

“Obviously, the turnover hurt us, but we had enough time on the clock,” he said. “The big thing is what the defense is able to do – give us the ball back. We get an opportunity to get out there and do it again.”

And that’s what happened. The defense held on three plays, forcing a punt that let the Lions start their final possession on Cleveland’s 50 with 2:14 left.

And from there, with the help of three holding penalties against the Browns, the Lions covered the 50 yards on only four plays. All were passes, with three completions.

On the fourth pass, Moore saw Fuller lined up split left with man-to-man coverage.

“Corey was one-on-one,” Moore said. “It was just ‘cover one.’ It was man to man across the board. He was running a go route. We like him in that matchup.”

Moore made a perfect throw to Fuller, who caught the ball in the left corner of the end zone, just inside the sideline.

Cory FullerWR Cory Fuller (Photo: AP Images)

It would be naïve to say that a TD pass from a third-string quarterback to a receiver fighting for a roster spot will provide a spark that will send a team into the regular season as playoff contenders. The fourth quarter of the first preseason game is played by guys fighting for the last few roster spots.

But the other side of that is that those roster sports are fought over by men who have careers and livelihoods at stake. And in the case of Moore, who’s going into his third season with the Lions, landing one of the 53 spots on the active roster is not something to be taken lightly.

Moore and his wife Julie are expecting their first child later this month.

It would not be a stretch to say that Moore was the most impressive quarterback in last night’s game whose name is not Matthew Stafford.

Moore was decisive and accurate, completing 11 of 13 passes for 121 yards and the TD throw to Fuller.

Stafford played one series with the Lions’ No. 1 offense and completed 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards. He wasn’t in long enough to get into any kind of rhythm, but that was by plan. Stafford is being groomed for the regular season.

For every other quarterback who played for either team Saturday night, pecking order was at stake. And nobody looked better than Moore – Manziel included.

Brian Hoyer started for the Browns and completed 6 of 14 passes for 92 yards. Manziel took over in the second quarter, and he provided some excitement with his arm and legs. In the end, his stats weren’t much – 7-of-11 passing for 63 yards and 6 runs for 27 yards. Tyler Thigpen finished up for the Browns and went 3-of-12 for 38 yards and a game-clinching – for the Lions – interception.

Dan Orlovsky, who came to the Lions as the designated backup to Stafford, struggled. He completed 12 of 23 passes for 89 yards.

The obvious question based on Saturday night’s game isn’t just if Moore is performing well enough to guarantee that the Lions will keep three quarterbacks on the final roster instead of two, but whether Moore is challenging Orlovsky for the No. 2 job.

That will sort itself out in the next three weeks, and Moore insists he is not obsessed with where he stands on the depth chart.

“No idea,” he said. “Dan’s been doing this for a long time. He’s had a lot of success in this league. He’s a guy I continue to learn from. It’s awesome to have him here.

“I think I learned early enough not to worry about it. Whatever happens, happens.”