EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Imagine you haven’t done something for five years.
You haven’t played one full round of golf.
You’ve hit the driving range, maybe played some mini-golf, maybe even played a few holes here or there at the local public course.
And then suddenly, you’re at the 15th hole of the U.S. Open, a driver in your hand and you’re within striking distance of the leader.
You’re Matt Moore.
You’re the Miami Dolphins quarterback and you’re a wily veteran. But you haven’t started a game in five years. You haven’t completed a touchdown in four years. And you’ve had a long week.
Little baby Wyatt was born on Monday.
And this NFL game is Saturday night. Bright lights. Short week.
So what do you do?
You’re a gunslinger, a swashbuckler and a live-wire rolled into one.
You’re California cool, not a care in the world.
So, what the hell, you let it rip.
You hit tight end Dion Sims for touchdowns. Twice.
You hit Kenny Stills on a deep post for a 52-yard touchdown.
You hit Jarvis Landry in stride for a 66-yard catch and touchdown run.
You set a career high with four touchdown passes and trash the New York Jets 34-10.
You’re 32 years old. You’ve played in 43 games and started 26 over a 10-year period.
But never, ever have you done this.
And you do it with the shockingly-competitive Miami Dolphins (9-5) on the verge of making the NFL Playoffs under the leadership of first-year coach Adam Gase, who believes in you because he believes he can help, well, most anyone win.
See: Tim Tebow.
So you pass for more touchdowns against the New York Jets than any Dolphins quarterback since… Dan Marino.
You were nearly perfect in the first half, according to some fancy passer rating.
Last Fin to be perfect in a half? Ryan Tannehill, who plays caddie on this night, holding crutches while offering tips about schemes and coverages. There is some hope that Tannehill may return before season’s end.
But this is your night.
“He let the ball fly,” Tannehill said.
Matt Moore never, ever lacks confidence, Gase said.
“I’m fired up,” Moore said, when it was over.
There was a thought in the offseason that Moore might not return.
It was explained to me like this: “He was looking. We were looking.”
But it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly that they circled back to each other.
Long after the game was over, Moore walked through the MetLife visitors’ locker room grinning, exited the far side, then walked all the way around and came right back through the room again.
“You lost?” I said.
“Not at all,” Moore said. “Just doing circles.”
Circling back to Miami has worked out perfectly for Moore and the Dolphins.
Long after it was over, Dolphins guard Jermon Bushrod was trying to explain how nothing seems too big for Moore and why the team didn’t really expect anything less from Moore on this night.
“The command in the huddle,” Bushrod said. “With Matt, it’s all eyes on him. His voice is commanding. His voice says, ‘Pay attention.'”
The entire NFL had eyes on Moore as he stepped to the most important tee box of his life.
And the best part?
The tournament isn’t over.
There’s at Buffalo and in all likelihood, home for New England, and the chance to cap off what would be the very best round, and perhaps year, of his life.