Saints’ Moore, Broncos’ Stokley solid WRs in the clutch
By SHELDON MICKLES
November 05, 2012
METAIRIE — Calling a wide receiver a possession receiver, especially in the NFL, is like saying a successful quarterback is a product of the system he’s playing in.
It’s often viewed as a slap in the face, like being painted as someone whose skills are limited.
Not so with New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore or Denver Broncos counterpart Brandon Stokley, who could probably compare notes before Sunday night’s game in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Players like Moore and Stokley, a star at UL-Lafayette in the late 1990s with former Saints and Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, don’t get enough credit for what they do — which is make plays in the passing game.
They just sort of do it under the radar most of the time.
“Everybody wants to be the lead dog,” said Moore, who’s paid his dues while playing in the shadow of Marques Colston since 2006. “Once you understand your role and are OK with accepting it, that’s when you can become the type of player you want to become.”
But he does have his moments.
Like in Sunday’s 35-28 victory over the Tampa Bay Bucs, Moore tied his career high with nine receptions for 121 yards — the sixth 100-yard game of his career compared to Colston’s 22.
Six of Moore’s catches against the Bucs came on third down, producing first downs to keep drives going. All told, eight of his receptions moved the chains.
“If I’m the possession guy and I’m catching nine balls for 120 yards or so, I’m fine with that,” Moore said. “If I’m catching three balls for 27 yards and we’re winning the game, I’m fine with it. As long as we’re winning the game, it doesn’t really matter to me.”
In other words, you can call him what you want.
At 5 feet, 9 inches and 190 pounds, Moore is anything but the prototypical NFL receiver, which is one of the reasons it took him a while to catch on with the Saints after being released by the Cleveland Browns in 2005.
Moore joined the Saints practice squad in 2005 and was waived two times before finally making the roster for good in 2007. In 78 career games, only 21 of which he’s started, he has 272 receptions for 3,191 yards and 32 TDs while playing for one of the NFL’s top offenses.
“I’m absolutely grateful, but at no time am I satisfied,” said Moore, a seven-year veteran. “I’m happy to be here. I’ve come a long way, but the moment you become satisfied, you become stagnant and your performance suffers.
“I try to work every day as if I haven’t made it and get better … because the competition’s getting better. In my eyes, it’s going to be a constant grind.”
Drew Brees certainly doesn’t mind having him as a security blanket to go with Colston and Devery Henderson.
“No question, he is a clutch receiver,” Brees said of Moore. “He is a go-to receiver. He is a dependable guy, a guy that I have a ton of confidence in.
“There is nothing he can’t do. He is probably one of the smoothest route runners, ball catchers I’ve ever been around.”
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has a similar rapport with Stokley, who has made a living finding soft spots in zone defenses and making tough catches over the middle during a 14-year career with five teams.
Manning and Stokley, a fourth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 1999, played four seasons together with the Indianapolis Colts from 2003-06 and the two Louisiana natives have formed a solid bond.
“He’s been a slot receiver on the teams I’ve been on and he’s been extremely valuable,” said Manning. ‘When teams are playing different types of coverages, the guy in the slot has different routes he can run. Brandon is a guy that can run and has good shake and bake.”
Stokley, who earned a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens in his second NFL season in 2000, has played in 137 NFL games and has 358 career receptions for 4,896 yards and 37 TDs.
Eighteen of his scores have come from Manning — including a 21-yarder for the go-ahead score in the Broncos’ last game, an improbable 35-24 comeback win over the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 15.
“He’s just a great threat to have on our offense,” Manning said of Stokley. “At 35 or 36, he looks as quick to me as we did back in Indy in ’03, ’04, ’05. He’s a great teammate, and it’s great to be reunited with him.”
Manning, however, stopped short of saying that Moore and Stokley, at 5-11 and 197 pounds, are similar receivers.
“I guess so, but it’s hard to say unless you’ve played with both of them,” Manning said. “It’s always hard to make comparisons. But I can speak to what I know and he’s (Stokley) been a big part of our offense.”