August 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

With late-game heroics, Kellen Moore makes early case to be Lions' backup QB

Detroit — After leading the Lions to a come-from-behind victory in Saturday night’s exhibition opener, multiple teammates said quarterback Kellen Moore was “ballin’” and had great control of the offense.

The reserved, barely 6-foot-tall Moore doesn’t fit the typical baller profile, but he impressed in the 13-12 victory over the Cleveland Browns with a strong performance that included a beautiful 21-yard touchdown pass to Corey Fuller with 65 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

And after the game, Moore presented the just-happy-to-be-there message instead of taking credit for his performance.

“Obviously, the biggest thing is it’s just fun to play,” he said. “I haven’t played for a little while, and any time you get a chance to play it’s always fun.”

After going 11-of-13 for 121 yards and a touchdowns, Moore showed he deserves a shot at the No. 2 quarterback job behind Matthew Stafford.

Dan Orlovsky, the current No. 2, went 12-for-23 for just 89 yards, but in his post-game comments, coach Jim Caldwell implied that the veteran is still leading the competition.

“It’s a long stretch that we have going,” Caldwell said. “It’s a competition, and we’ll take a look at it and see how that matches up and where that falls in due time. This is the first ballgame. You know how that is. Every week is a little different.”

Moore’s growth since going undrafted out of Boise State in 2012 is undeniable, and even though he doesn’t have the strongest arm, he often finds a way to deliver the ball on time.

“He’s one of those guys that can predict the movements of the receivers,” former Lions receiver Nate Burleson, who’s now with the Browns, said. “His balls don’t seem like they have a lot of zip on them, but they always find their place.”

And none of them found their place better than the touchdown to Fuller, who gained just enough separation on a go route.

“It was a great ball,” Fuller said. “I didn’t have to do anything, just get off the line and run underneath the ball.”

Moore entered the game at the end of the third quarter, and his night wasn’t perfect. With the Lions at the Cleveland 8, Moore lost a fumble on a low snap from rookie Travis Swanson with less than 3 minutes left, but he made up for it with the heroics for the game-winning drive.

“He’s cool as a cucumber,” Stafford said. “That’s what he does. He’s made plays like that his entire life.”

In his two-plus seasons with the Lions, Moore has learned from Stafford, Shaun Hill and now Orlovsky. He has yet to be active for a regular season game, and even if he makes the roster, the Lions will hope he or any backup quarterback never plays.

Offensive lineman Rodney Austin, who came with Moore as an undrafted rookie, said the quarterback has in many ways taken on the personality of Hill, who’s now with the St. Louis Rams. Hill would regularly call rarely-used plays in practice just to show his intelligence, and Moore is doing the same thing, even though it’s a new scheme.

Looking forward, Moore said he wants to build on his performance from Saturday, but he knows there’s a long way to go if he’s going to make the roster.

“At the end of the day, this is a small sample of a large process,” Moore said.

But the Lions have put an increased emphasis on finishing under Caldwell, so closing out the game in this fashion can’t hurt Moore’s chances.

During his humble interview, Moore even let out a joke when asked if he knew whether or not the Lions would keep three quarterbacks.

“No idea,” he said. “Let me know when you find out.”

Lions quarterback Kellen Moore throws in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 13-12 win over the Browns at Ford Field. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News