The 2017 NFL Playoffs kicked off this weekend with four Wild Card matchups. Unfortunately, only one former Oregon State player was active as Matt Moore took on the Pittsburgh Steelers (the Chiefs and Falcons are both on bye until next weekend).
The weather was frigid, and the wind made kicking and passing more difficult. Announcer Phil Simms even made a point to proclaim that Matt Moore had never played in weather this cold (13 degrees) because he attended Oregon State.
Turns out, he was only halfway correct. Technically, Moore didn’t play in 13-degree weather, but he was close on two occasions. The coldest day in 2005 was December 16th, when temperatures dipped to 18 degrees in Corvallis. In 2006, the temperatures dipped to 21 degrees on October 31st.
Saturday’s Wild Card matchup between the Steelers and Dolphins was a blowout early as the Dolphins defense was unable to stop literally anything. Antonio Brown and Big Ben hooked up for two huge touchdowns early, and the Steelers racked up 219 yards in one quarter of play.
Roethlisberger didn’t even throw an incompletion until one minute was left in the first half. A terrible defense and absolutely no running game put Moore behind the eight ball early, but he still responded as well as could be expected...for a while.
Despite being completely “unable to deal with the cold temperatures”, Moore was solid early on Saturday. He missed a couple throws to start the game, including an almost interception, but he completed a terrific 36-yard pass to Kenny Stills on third down to put his team in field goal range and hit on two passes to tight end Dion Sims.
On the next Dolphins drive, he took a vicious, and very illegal, shot to the chin from linebacker Bud Dupree. Moore was down on his back for seemingly forever while a mini brawl raged in the background, but he somehow stood back up and came into the game after missing only one play. What toughness! And then he led a field goal drive to make the score 20-6.
Moore had a chance to put the Dolphins back within seven points right before halftime after throwing a deep bomb to Devante Parker, but a sack/fumble by James Harrison ended the drive. Sadly, the good plays ended with the first half.
Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil were absolutely no match for Harrison, Dupree, Lawrence Timmons, and Javon Hargrave as they allowed two sack/fumbles on two consecutive drives. The game continued to get worse with a third turnover on the next drive.
Moore dropped back to pass looking to spark his offense. He threw a pass on a crossing route but didn’t see linebacker Ryan Shazier drop into coverage. The big linebacker intercepted the pass and set the Steelers up in Dolphins territory. Le’Veon Bell pushed the score to 30-6 with his second rushing touchdown of the day and officially made it impossible for the Dolphins to come back.
The remainder of the game was a pure frustration for Miami as Jay Ajayi constantly failed to move the ball, and the offensive line continuously gave up sacks and quarterback hits. Moore was able to move the ball late and drive for a touchdown, but it was completely surprising that he was still standing after taking five sacks and multiple other shots from the Steelers pass rush.
The crazy thing is that Moore (29-36, 289 yards, one touchdown, one interception) still had better passing stats than Brock Osweiler (14-25, 168 yards, one touchdown). He just didn’t have the benefit of Houston’s defense or offensive line.
The Playoffs continue next weekend with the Divisional Round. Andy Levitre, Terron Ward, and the Falcons will be hosting the Seattle Seahawks. DJ Alexander, Steven Nelson, and the Chiefs will be hosting the Steelers. BeaverBlitz will keep you updated as the Falcons and Chiefs try to stay alive in the Playoffs.