DAVIE (CBSMiami/AP) — When your last playoff appearance was eight years ago and your last playoff win was 15 years ago, expectations tend to be lowered.
NFL Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka says the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback switch reminds him of the one they made in 1972 — their perfect season.
Not that the Dolphins are undefeated, but they may again be playoff-bound with a backup QB.
When a sprained left knee sent Ryan Tannehill to the sideline, Matt Moore came off the bench in Game 14 and led the drive to the winning field goal on the final play. Last week, making his first start in five years, Moore threw a career-high four touchdown passes to help win at the Jets , giving the Dolphins (9-5) control of their fate in the race for the final AFC wild-card berth.
While watching Saturday night’s victory on TV, Csonka tweeted that Moore reminded him of his late teammate Earl Morrall, who replaced an injured Bob Griese to help the Dolphins go 17-0 some 44 years ago.
“I loved seeing it happen again,” Csonka said Tuesday. “It was reminiscent of when we lost Bob, and Earl came on the field and ran into the huddle said to me, ‘What do you think?’ And I said, ‘It doesn’t matter what I think. It’s what you think, and whether you’re ready.'”
Moore was ready. He went 12 for 18 for 236 yards against the Jets, throwing more passes than he had attempted in 2013-15 combined.
What did he learn?
“That it has been a while, and you can still go out and play and execute and make the plays that need to be made,” Moore said. “There was some good stuff; there was some stuff to learn from.”
While Moore earned his 14th career win as a starter, it was his first for a team with a winning record. Teammates and coaches claimed they weren’t surprised by his efficiency amid the pressure of a playoff race.
“Matt prepares like he’s the starting quarterback,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “Every week he has done that. For him to come in and play with the confidence he played with, to a lot of people it was unexpected, but for us it was something we already knew.”
This weekend the Dolphins can clinch their first playoff berth since 2008 if they win at Buffalo on Saturday, and Denver loses at Kansas City on Sunday.
But the Dolphins haven’t won at Buffalo since 2011. Their quarterback in that game: Matt Moore.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Moore said. “In the past we just haven’t executed very well. Hopefully that’s not the case this time.”
His performance against the Jets ensures the Bills won’t underestimate Moore.
“He might actually throw the deep ball better than Tannehill,” Buffalo coach Rex Ryan said.
Tannehill hobbled through the locker room Tuesday with the aid of a crutch, his leg in a large cast. He hasn’t been ruled out for the rest of the season, but it’s uncertain whether he could return even if Miami made a run deep into the postseason.
He was on the sideline at the Jets game, offering Moore counsel as they did a role reversal.
“He was awesome, and I expected it to be that way,” Moore said. “We talked about a few little things like IDs on the defense, what he saw from the sidelines, how he saw the backside cornerback playing. He was extremely helpful, and I expected that. That’s who he is.”
Moore said he heard from lots of friends and relatives following his prime-time performance, including his former coach at Oregon, Mike Riley, and his former high school coach.
And he was pleased to learn Larry Csonka complimented him, even though at 32, Moore is too young to remember the perfect season.
“I know enough about it to know that’s pretty cool,” he said. “That’s obviously a nice comment for sure.”
Csonka spends much of the year in Alaska and has only attended one Dolphins game this season, but plans to be at the regular-season finale Jan. 1 against the New England Patriots.
“It’s getting to be fun to be a Dolphins fan again,” Csonka said.
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