The Indianapolis Colts are playoff bound after a huge win-and-in season finale against the Tennessee Titans. The Colts were able to dominate the ground game and Andrew Luck— outside of one major bonehead play— put together another excellent performance to conclude the season. The defense also did their part, holding the Blaine Gabbert led Titans to just 10 offensive points on the day and limiting red hot running back Derrick Henry to 93 yards rushing.
The defensive effort on Sunday Night was led by the same key players who have been dominant all season. One player in particular who had a stellar game was cornerback Kenny Moore II. Moore has been the backbone of the Colts’ secondary all year and when they needed him most, he delivered with an excellent performance.
Doing a little bit of everything for the Colts this year, Moore has evolved from a low end roster player to arguably the second most important player on a top ten defense. This past Sunday showed every bit of how good he’s been to a national audience who has not really seen him or the Colts play this season.
Moore has steadily been one of the Colts’ best run defenders this season and is a big factor in why they have performed so well against top rushers all year. Early in the year, he was given more slot corner reps due to sound tackling and physical play— despite being only being 5’9” 190 pounds. Here you can see just why they’ve entrusted him so much in the slot. With bulldozer running back Derrick Henry running up the gut, he doesn’t hesitate to make the tackle. This physical play from Moore has been evident all season.
Anyone one who has followed the Colts this season will tell you, don’t target Moore on third downs. He seems to have a knack for coming up with huge pass break-ups on third down. This play is no different as Gabbert tries to target wide receiver Darius Jennings (second wide receiver from the top). Overall it is excellent coverage as Moore funnels Jennings inside where he has safety help over the top. This results in the quarterback leaving the ball a bit behind the receiver, in perfect range for Moore to make the crucial pass break-up.
Another underrated aspect of Moore’s game is how quick he is when coming downhill out of his zone coverage. He is explosive out of his backpedal and as a result, he limits a lot of yards after catch by receivers. This play is no different with Moore in zone coverage over top of wide receiver Corey Davis (second receiver from the bottom). With little time left in the half, Moore knows that his primary responsibility is to limit yards after catch and keep the ball in the field of play. He breaks quickly and is the first one to get to Davis after he catches the ball. While he misses the tackle, he does enough to slow Davis and allows the rest of the team to make the gang tackle.
There are a few limitations in Moore’s game that prevent him from being a top tier NFL corner. The main one is seen in man coverage. He is savvy and aware in man coverage but lacks size and top end speed. This clip is a good example of what happens when he is matched up against the bigger and stronger Davis. He does everything right, from funneling the receiver inside to breaking on the ball as it is thrown. He just doesn’t have the length or strength to force a pass break-up against a bigger receiver.
One of Moore’s best traits is his zone vision. Zone vision is the ability to maintain zone discipline and zone depth while reading the quarterback. Watch Moore’s head as the ball is snapped. He is looking directly at Gabbert to get a quick read on the play. He diagnoses the quick screen, beats his blocker inside, and nearly comes up with game altering pick 6. If Gabbert was a better quarterback and didn’t put this ball behind the receiver, Moore likely takes this to the house. Excellent diagnosis and nearly a huge play.
The best players step up in the biggest moments and Moore did that on Sunday. Playing in his typical zone coverage on third down— note third down — Moore remains disciplined in his zone even as Gabbert rolls out of the pocket. By doing this, he closes the throwing lane behind him and forces Gabbert to make a bad throw or attempt to run for the first. Gabbert chooses to throw and Moore capitalizes with the interception.
Another angle shows that Moore did a lot to force this interception. Notice how he rolls with Gabbert as he is scrambles out of the pocket. This gives Gabbert the illusion that the throw back lane behind Moore will open as Moore rolls out with him. It turns out, Moore was simply baiting the quarterback as Moore stops on a dime as soon as Gabbert starts his throwing motion and jumps the passing lane.
The final highlight of the regular season for Moore basically sums up his abilities as a player. With the Titans needing a miracle late in the game, he continues to play with the same intensity. In the slot, in what looks like a linebacker position, he breaks on the ball as soon as it is thrown and buries the receiver after the catch. To cap it off, we get a Superman celebration. It was a great way to end an outstanding game and season.
There have been numerous standouts for the Colts defense this year. Guys like Darius Leonard and Denico Autry have received a great deal of attention but none of them have impressed me as much as Kenny Moore II. The intensity he brings, the clutch plays he makes, and the overall ability he brings to the secondary is just unreal. He has become a true impact player for the Colts.
This game really showed what Moore is all about. From making plays in run defense, to breaking up passes on third down, to making a big interception with the game on the line, the entire NFL got to see how good of a player Moore is on Sunday night.
What a find by GM Chris Ballard. Moore is not only the best secondary player on the team but he’s arguably its second best defender as well. Hopefully he and the rest of the defense can carry their strong play into the playoffs against the division rival Houston Texans.