Two weeks ago, Tyreek Hill served as Matt Moore’s top target. As Hill ran a collection of patterns during two or three Chiefs practices, Moore threw passes his way, a specific intent to stress some of the deep routes.
So they do have some familiarity.
On scout team.
As the Chiefs prepared to play host to Houston, they needed players to mimic some of the Texans’ top offensive weapons. Hill, still not completely recovered from his shoulder injury at that time, was Will Fuller. Moore? He was supposed to be Deshaun Watson.
“Our connection came when I was hurt,” Hill said.
As for the rest of the Chiefs receivers, well, their first experience with Moore came Thursday night in Denver. In an actual game. Not an ideal setting. Moore relieved starter Patrick Mahomes, who left with a dislocated kneecap likely to keep him out for a month, a source told The Star’s Sam Mellinger.
Moore completed 10 of 19 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. The recipient of the touchdown: Tyreek Hill.
“I’m pretty sure about three or four guys on the field had never caught a ball from Matt, even in practice. I know I hadn’t,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “It was something where it was just going out there and playing within the rules of the offense and trusting the guy to put a ball somewhere.”
The Chiefs ballooned their four-point lead when Mahomes departed to a 30-6 final score in Denver. Afterward, Mahomes congratulated Moore for a job completed. So did teammates.
In particular, they pinpointed the more immediate response. Kelce said Moore “came in full of energy ready to rock ’n roll.”
“I’m proud to get a win (and) to go in and play with his team,” Moore said. “The circumstances are unfortunate, and I wish (Mahomes) well. We all know that. It feels good to come in and win the ballgame.”
The first couple of drives included rough patches, to be sure, the rust obvious. Two months ago, before signing with the Chiefs, Moore was coaching a high school team.
But he settled in as the game aged. On the touchdown pass to Hill, the pocket awareness keyed the score as much as the throw itself.
“It’s hard to be a relief pitcher,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He’s done it before. There’s a certain way to prep for that. He understands that. It paid off for him.”
During the remainder of Mahomes’ absence, the Chiefs will be afforded a luxury they didn’t have Thursday.
While Reid credited offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for devising a gameplan that required little tweaking once Moore entered, the adjustments will come in the ensuing days. The structure of Reid’s offense will remain in place, but the talents of Mahomes and Moore — or any NFL quarterback, for that matter — are noticeably different. The game plan in 10 days will reflect that, when the Chiefs play host to Green Bay at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I don’t think we have to change the whole offense, but definitely” there will be adjustments to better fit Moore’s talents, Reid said. “That’s part of being a coach and knowing your players. You want to put them in the best position to do what they do best. We’ll look at what he does best and talk with him, and we’ll put together a good game plan. That’s the direction we’re going.”