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Written By Sam Ekstrom (ZoneCoverage.com)
For the second time in six weeks, the Vikings may end up facing a 30-something journeyman backup quarterback.
With Patrick Mahomes still recovering from a kneecap dislocation, Matt Moore is potentially in line for a second straight start when the Chiefs and Vikings face off Sunday afternoon. Back in late September, the Vikings faced Chicago’s Chase Daniel when Mitch Trubisky went down with a shoulder injury on the game’s first drive. Minnesota lost that game 16-6 as fans claimed (only partially tongue-in-cheek) that the Vikings might’ve preferred the up-and-down Trubisky to the veteran Daniel.
There’s no saying that about the Chiefs quarterback situation as the Vikings await word on whether they’ll be defending Mahomes or Matt Moore on Sunday.
Mahomes might’ve been an overtime coin flip away from appearing in the Super Bowl last year. He has a 17-6 record over the past two seasons with a 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s nearly unsackable. He’s likely the best deep-ball throwing quarterback in football today. He mixes up arm angles like a starting pitcher (and sometimes just changes arms).
“You want to play against their best,” said Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. “You don’t necessarily want free passes on anything. The reality is, we’ve played teams who have had injuries and been missing people, and they’re still an NFL defense, still an NFL team. There are good players, no matter who’s out there. Sometimes it can be over-talked about, ‘Well, they were missing this or that guy.’ I mean, we lost Adam Thielen in Detroit and we had to keep going, keep moving the football and scoring points. You don’t throw in the towel. Whether he’s out there or not, it’s going to be a very, very tough game against a really good team. He certainly is one of the best players in football, and if he’s out there, he really gives them a spark.”
Mahomes, 24, is off to one of the greatest starts in NFL history. His backup, the 35-year-old Moore, was out of the NFL in 2018 and entered the fall of 2019 coaching high school football. The Chiefs had evaluated Moore and Chad Henne before choosing Henne in free agency, so when Henne went down with a late-August injury, Moore got the call.
“I liked both of them,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said on a conference call. “It was a coin flip, and I just thought that both of them could help us in the role that we needed. When Chad went down, Matt was the logical guy to try to get here.”
Moore inherited Mahomes’ start at Denver in Week 7 and helped build a big lead on the hapless Broncos. He wasn’t as successful Sunday night against Green Bay, as Vikings fans cheered him on to provide some help in the NFC North race, but Kansas City’s 31-24 loss was hardly on Moore, who went 24 of 36 with 267 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“He’s been a real pro with everything,” said Reid. “The way he handles himself and handles the players around him, he’s a humble guy. He works hard. He’s got a good way about him.”
But there’s no denying: The Vikings would certainly rather face him than his 11-years-younger counterpart.
Moore has the fifth-lowest percentage of deep balls thrown over the previous two weeks, per Pro Football Focus; Mahomes was fourth-highest in his first six games and knew how to get the most out of weapons Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and DeMarcus Robinson.
Moore has a career average of 7.0 yards per attempt; Mahomes is at 8.8.
Moore has a career sack rate of 7.3%; the uber-mobile Mahomes is nearly half that at 4.0%.
Head coach Mike Zimmer confesses that prepping for Moore is different than prepping for Mahomes. The hard part is prepping for both of them as the Chiefs attempt to keep the Vikings guessing. As was the case in Week 8, Mahomes was limited in practice to start the week but was shown jogging as his knee improves.
“It’s a challenge, obviously,” Zimmer said. “I think you’ll have calls based on their offense that you feel good about. Then you’re going to have other calls based on that quarterback, other calls based on this quarterback, so you kind of put together your base plan and then you have plans for if he plays and if he doesn’t play.”
And if he doesn’t, the Vikings will need to do what they couldn’t against Daniel in Chicago.