Back in Week 12, Tom Brady only threw toward Kenny Moore II four times. It was the second-lowest number of times Moore was targeted in coverage in a game this season.
"He does not throw your direction, I know that," Moore's mother, Angela Carter, said after the game in an exchange aired on "Hard Knocks." "Because he know you be ready."
It wasn't a coincidence. Brady remembered Moore from their brief time together during Patriots training camp in 2017.
"You got a great career going," Brady told Moore after that Week 12 game. "You know what to do. I already seen it for the last four years."
Brady figured out what quite a few offenses and quarterbacks seemingly haven't – don't throw the ball Moore's way. Because entering Week 16, no player has been targeted more in coverage than Moore (105), per Pro Football Focus.
It feels like a bizarre stat, especially with Moore playing at a Pro Bowl level this season. He's been especially strong in coverage in the second half of the season, as since Week 8 Moore ranks among cornerbacks:
- Second in interceptions (4)
- Fifth in PFF coverage grade (87.4)
- 13th in passer rating allowed (52.7)
"He's played at a high level and he's competed," defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. "Every single time, and you saw it last week, that he's competing on the go-balls, on the intermediate passes, on the quick passes, on the screens – he's one of the better players against the screen. So, he's done an outstanding job.
"He's worked his tail off to be able to play inside at the nickel, which we've always seen him be a dynamic player in there, but also as an every-down corner to play outside versus the base personnel and we would have no problem putting him out there in nickel. He's just so valuable on the inside there in our nickel packages that we just leave him in there. He's an all-around corner and he deserves everything he gets."
Slot corner and outside corner require different responsibilities and techniques, and the ability to play both at a high level is rare. Only two players have allowed a lower passer rating allowed than Moore's 74.8 from the slot, per Pro Football Focus, and as you'd expect no defender has been targeted more when covering the slot than Moore (78 times). But he's still been strong on the outside, too – in 152 coverage snaps, Moore has allowed 17 receptions on 27 targets with a passer rating of 89.4.
And this isn't even taking into account how well Moore defends the run. Moore leads all cornerbacks with 15 run stops, and only two cornerbacks are making those plays closer to the line of scrimmage on average than him, per PFF.
"It is a completely different position," Eberflus said of how the Colts play outside and slot corner. "And what we ask him to do inside there in terms of how you match the coverages, how you match the routes, it happens so fast to be able to read run when you ask a guy to be able to play the run and play the inside gap, be it a C gap, a B gap or an A gap or a set force in the D gap. It doesn't matter.
"Then also to be able to match the routes and match coverages and then play zone and be able to hit the way we ask the guys to hit inside there. He's really another WILL linebacker just on the other side in our defense. So, he's a dynamic, dynamic player to be able to do that, and then also be able to go outside and play."
This is all to say: Moore is one of the best all-around defensive players in the NFL. He's not just a good slot corner – he can play outside, he can defend the run, and he's doing all it while being thrown at more than any player in the league.
For some players, that'd mean more chances to make a mistake. For Moore, it means more opportunities to make a play – like he did with two outstanding pass break-ups last weekend against the Patriots.
"A large part of all the success we've been able to have since I've been here defensively, a lot of it's been predicated around him – his flexibility to be able to make plays, in the box, open field, guard, play man coverage," safety Khari Willis said. "I think just as a person, (I appreciate) how sincere he is. As a friend, as a teammate, as a brother, you appreciate people like that. You don't get very many people like that that are just that good of a football player and that good of a person. So, that's what I appreciate about him. Even on the football field, he's always willing to learn, willing to listen, asking questions not only to coaches but to players, as well as teaching and instructing. That's my brother. We all love him and appreciate him here."
Wednesday's practice report