Bronco Beat

Kellen Moore tosses TD pass for Cowboys, makes Boise State history in loss

Dallas Cowboys' Kellen Moore throws pass in the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.
Dallas Cowboys' Kellen Moore throws pass in the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. AP

Former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore made his NFL regular-season debut Saturday night off the bench and threw his first touchdown pass but the New York Jets rallied to beat his Dallas Cowboys 19-16.

Moore was 15-for-25 for 158 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions. The first interception happened when his arm was hit as he threw on his first drive and the third was a Hail Mary to Dez Bryant in the closing seconds.

But the second interception proved costly. Moore had driven the Cowboys inside the 10-yard line. He tried to throw to Bryant but apparently didn’t see the safety who was waiting for that throw and intercepted it.

“I thought he did some good things in the game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He has a good feel for playing the game. I think we all saw that. Obviously, you can’t turn the ball over. ... The red-zone turnover obviously hurt us. ... He made some good throws at critical moments. I thought he looked comfortable for his first time out.”

Moore replaced Matt Cassel in the second quarter. Cassel was 3-for-8 for 37 yards and an interception as the Jets built a 6-3 lead.

“We wanted to give Kellen a chance to see if he could jump-start the offense,” Garrett said. “I thought Kellen came in and did a nice job and gave us a spark at times.”

Moore’s first touchdown pass was a quick strike to Bryant at the line of scrimmage against a blitz. Bryant ran it in for the 10-yard touchdown.

“Certainly there were good things, there were bad things,” Moore said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “... I felt good. I felt like the communication was pretty good.”

The Cowboys play next week at Buffalo.

Bills coach Rex Ryan called Moore a “little bitty lefty” after Moore played against the Bills with the Lions in the preseason.

“I’ve been 6-feet, 200 (pounds) for a long time,” Moore said, according to the DMN. “I know who I am. I’m not going to change over night, so we’ll see what happens.”

Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News wrote that Moore should start the rest of the season.

He is the first former Boise State quarterback to play in an NFL regular-season game.

My takeaways:

1. Moore performed well considering he has received few first-team snaps in practice. Take out the second interception and he likely leads the Cowboys to a win. The truer test of his ability to play in the NFL will come if/when he’s given an entire week to prepare as the starter. That also would mean the defense gets to prepare for him.

2. Moore did many of the things Boise State fans learned to expect from him — he threw the ball to the right place, he gave receivers a chance to make plays after the catch and he mostly took what the defense gave him. Two of his interceptions were a result of trying to make too big of a play. On the first, he probably should have scrambled rather than making a throw under duress. On the the last, he threw essentially a Hail Mary — about the only way the Cowboys were going to get into field-goal range at that point.

3. The doubters aren’t going away anytime soon. Moore is small by NFL standards. That isn’t going to change. His best hope right now likely is to convince the Cowboys that he should be their backup next year. But owner Jerry Jones seems skeptical.

Earlier info:

Former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore came off the bench in the second quarter Saturday night as his Dallas Cowboys played the New York Jets.

Moore became the first former Boise State quarterback to appear in an NFL regular-season game. Moore spent three years as the Detroit Lions’ third-string quarterback, was cut earlier this year and signed with the Cowboys. He has served as the backup recently because starter Tony Romo is injured. He got in Saturday because the Cowboys lost patience with struggling backup-turned-starter Matt Cassel.

Cassel was 3-for-8 for 37 yards and an interception as the Jets built a 6-3 lead.

Moore’s first pass was a completion for a 1-yard loss. His second, under duress, was intercepted. Moore’s arm was hit as he threw. The Jets got a field goal out of the turnover.

Moore completed a 14-yard pass to Dez Bryant to begin his second drive. After a couple of running plays, he threw a go route to Bryant but the receiver was well covered and the ball sailed long.

Moore executed the 2-minute offense to perfection late in the first half to give the Cowboys a 10-9 lead. He threw over middle to Terrance Williams, who gained 14 yards. A 15-yard penalty was tacked on. Moore’s arm was hit on the next play, resulting in an incompletion. He then looked one way and threw the other to the sideline for a 16-yard gain to Brice Butler. On the next play, Moore beat the blitz with a quick hitch to Bryant, who caught the ball at the line of scrimmage and beat the defense into the end zone for a 10-yard TD.

Moore was 5-for-8 for 53 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the half. The Cowboys led 10-9 at halftime.

In his halftime interview with NFL Network, Dallas coach Jason Garrett said of Moore: “He’s a smart guy, he’s an instinctive guy. He hasn’t played that much, but once he settled into the game, I think you see what we like about him. I think he did a really good job handling the pressure down in the red zone and giving Dez a chance.”

Moore led the Cowboys down field quickly early in the third quarter but threw an interception in the end zone.

The Jets took a 16-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter. But Moore answered with a nice drive that included a 23-yard completion on third-and-4 and a 9-yard completion on fourth-and-2 after the Cowboys faced first-and-25. A 5-yard completion on third-and-10 allowed kicker Dan Bailey to make a 50-yard field goal to tie the game 16-16. The field goal banked off the right upright.

The Jets drove for the game-winning field goal on the ensuing possession.

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Karen Towne reported this from Boise:

“Sitting at Busters sports bar in Eagle and I have to tell you when Kellen entered the game this place erupted in cheers, screams and claps. So proud of our hometown past Bronco. Congrats Kellen on your first NFL TD.”