To the casual football fan, the prospect of facing Matt Moore on Sunday would be like a lion preparing to face an unarmed gladiator. To some, the mention of his name might invoke a response like, "Is that the fat guy who made Fahrenheit 911?" No, it isn't, but some of those same skeptics had similar thoughts when a sixth-round draft pick of the Patriots got a starting job when Drew Bledsoe got hurt and they couldn't remember if it was Mike, Greg, Peter or Bobby Brady.
While Moore isn't likely to replicate the kind of immediate impact Tom Brady had with the Patriots, he is going to start against the Vikings Sunday night for his third straight game. Jake Delhomme has been sidelined with a finger injury on his throwing hand and head coach John Fox ruled him out.
Moore is a virtual unknown who has led the Panthers to a 1-1 record in his first two starts – beating Tampa Bay 16-6 and losing on the road to the Patriots last week by a score of 20-10.
When asked what he knows about Moore, linebacker Chad Greenway said there's only one thing that matters about what he and his teammates know about him.
"I know he's a starting quarterback in the NFL," Greenway said. "So, he's capable of beating you. That's all we know. We've seen his tape and we know he's capable of making all the throws."
The one benefit the Vikings may have as they prepare for the Panthers is that Delhomme and Moore aren't that dissimilar as quarterbacks. Both are drop-back passers who tend to stay in the pocket and don't run around for too much improvising. While Delhomme might be the preferred option against an active, playmaking defense like the Vikings, Moore isn't viewed as a significant drop in talent if he gets the call.
"He doesn't have the experience Delhomme does, but I don't think it's going to change their approach to the game," linebacker Ben Leber said. "They want to run the ball first and they're going to do that regardless of who is at quarterback. I don't think they'll approach the game any different, but if they get in a position where we have (a lead) and they have to throw the ball, maybe we can key on some stuff that Moore does and Delhomme doesn't."
There is some thought that the Vikings may try to go out of their way to confuse the young quarterback. But safety Madieu Williams said the Vikings don't need to get too cute in over-thinking their position. They know what they need to do and it doesn't matter to him which QB gets the start, although he did admit that there are some advantages to going with the guy (Delhomme) who has been there, done that.
"You try to disguise your looks whether you're going against an inexperienced guy or a veteran," Williams said. "The only advantage you may have is that the inexperienced quarterback may not have seen a particular look before, whereas a veteran might see something that puts up a red flag. You can't sit back and try to do too much just because a player isn't experienced. Those guys have a lot of talent. You have to make sure you're aware of what he does well, because anyone who is on the roster has to be good."
Having a limited body of work to go on with Moore can be a concern, but considering that the Panthers' bread and butter for the last two years has been the running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, not so much the vertical passing game, any lack of intel they may have on Moore likely won't come into play.
"When you have a fresh guy out there, they can throw you off a little bit with where they're going to go," Leber said. "With him, I think their approach will stay the same. They have their two beasts in the backfield and will want to establish them. That's their M.O."
If anything, Leber added, there may be more concern with a youngster like Moore. Often times when a backup QB steps into the spotlight, he feels he has nothing to lose and is more willing to take risks on trying to make big plays. Over the years, it seemed like every time a guy like Doug Flutie came off the bench, he produced huge numbers. They would typically tail off once defenses got used to what he was doing, but Leber said Moore has nothing to lose and might just come out winging the ball around in hopes of giving his team a spark.
"You can go in with that mentality," Leber said. "You can step in that situation and say, ‘I'm just going to let it fly.' I don't know if that is the approach (Moore) is going to take, but I think overall, it's a good mentality to have."
However, the Vikings don't want to leave that option open for Moore. If the front four doesn't get enough heat on Moore on their own, expect to see the Vikings blitzing early and often. The last thing they want is let Moore get comfortable with his position.
"You don't want to give him any more confidence than he already has," Greenway said. "He may not have a lot of experience at the NFL level, but anyone who has made it to the No. 2 quarterback in this league knows what he's doing and can do things to hurt you."
Odds are the way the Panthers attack the Vikings and the way the Minnesota defense schemes Carolina's offense isn't going to change all that much with Moore under center.
"Our game plan isn't going to change and I'm sure there's won't either.," Williams said. "In the end, it all comes down to execution. If we stop the run, it doesn't matter who they have back there. We're going to be coming after him and trying to make plays."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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