Savvy Moore plays bigger than stats for the Lions

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
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Allen Park — He is short, at least by the NFL's conventional measuring stick, and his 40-times would be more impressive if they were 45-times.

Big deal, say the Lions, who simply appreciate the lift Lance Moore has brought to a team that hasn't been snooty when it comes to help.

Moore, 32, is a no-frills wide receiver who Sunday snared five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown in the Lions' 34-31 overtime toppling of the Bears.

It was the latest proof that Detroit was smart to have brought aboard a free-agent receiver, ignored last year at Pittsburgh, who had previously helped the Saints and Drew Brees during Moore's nine seasons there.

"I haven't been around many guys that have as good a feel as he does," said Joe Lombardi, the Lions offensive coordinator who had known Moore during Lombardi's days at New Orleans.

Sunday's TD was a Moore lithograph.

Bland backfield turns Lions' rush to crawl

Slotted to the left, he broke downfield, gave Bears cornerback Sherrick McManis a subtle signal to the outside, then stepped inside and headed for the end zone, where Matthew Stafford caught him at the goal line with a pretty pass good for a 20-yard touchdown.

Moore dedicated the TD with some flat-footed, arms-happy choreography reminiscent of Seinfeld character Elaine's famous Christmas party solo.

"It's called 'hittin' dem folks,' " Moore explained Thursday during a pre-practice break at Lions headquarters.

No further analysis of the gyrations, or their title, was provided, which was probably in the best interests of Moore and the Lions community. But, of course, he is in Detroit for reasons that are more tied to football than to the stage.

"He's just one of those guys," Lombardi said. "Quarterbacks end up getting a real high comfort level with him, because he's where they think he's going to be.

"He does smart things. And he does things that quarterbacks expect him to do. He's so good at relaying to a quarterback what he's going to do, how he runs routes. It's not always going to be the same every time."

Moore, of course, always knew that by 2015 he would be an 11-year NFL wide receiver racking up 100-yard games.

Well, no, he didn't. And neither did anyone else who is telling the truth.

His college choice, the University of Toledo, confirms he wasn't awash in offers from Ohio State, Alabama, or Notre Dame. But he had this knack for catching a football at Toledo — as a receiver and as a return man — and making good things, like getting yards and touchdowns, happen afterward.

And even if he wasn't drafted, the NFL was at least an option. In Moore's mind, anyway.

A man from Westerville, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, decided to try free-agent life with the Browns after he finished school at Toledo in 2005. It didn't work out and Moore quickly signed with the Saints, where he endured a practice-squad apprenticeship that made him a starter in 2007.

A year later, playing heavily in place of an injured Marques Colston, Moore had 928 yards and 10 touchdowns. Four years later, he had his first NFL 1,000-yard season, again for the Saints, where he worked for another year before giving it a shot with the Steelers.

Last spring, with the help of Lombardi's testimony, Moore and the Lions hooked up.

He's on pace to catch 600 yards worth of passes in 2015. And that could trigger at some point another "hittin' dem folks' reprise. Age hasn't seemed to pare his football skills or, obviously, deliver any dance inhibitions.

"It's not necessarily the physical attributes that degrade with time," Lombardi said, meaning Moore is becoming wiser in greater proportion than anything is being lost on the physical side.

"He's kind of a smaller guy. He doesn't have top-end speed. And the things that make him great don't necessarily go away as fast as some of the attributes that make other guys.

"He'll be able to keep his savvy for a while. So, we're glad to have him."

The feeling is mutual, indeed.

"I've said all season that I can still play," Moore said. "Sunday was fun. It felt like old times for me. Hopefully, we'll have a bunch more of those this season."

Victories, that is. And maybe some TDs.

As for Moore's end-zone floor show? That's definitely under review.

Vikings at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Vikings 3-2, Lions 1-5

Line: Vikings by 1½

Series: Vikings lead 70-36-2

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