Center Larry Moore's snap was so high, sailing over the head of Shane Matthews, that the quarterback gave up any thought of catching it. Instead, Matthews did well to merely recover the ball, which had sailed 13 yards to the Washington Redskins 35-yard line.
"I was beginning to wonder," said offensive line coach Kim Helton, chuckling, "if we were going to fair-catch it."
The play against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 27 at FedEx Field momentarily brought attention to Moore, whose gaffe occurred in the shotgun formation on third and nine early in the fourth quarter. But the 6-foot-2, 300-pounder had returned to anonymity by the end of the Redskins' 26-21 victory as their makeshift offensive line helped the club amass 370 yards, including 165 yards rushing.
After resembling a matador for most of the season -- partly because of injuries -- the offensive line has been strong recently, allowing only two sacks in the past two games.
Regardless of the line's fluctuations, Moore, 27, has been perhaps its sturdiest player. Jon Jansen and Moore have graded the highest on the offensive line this season. But Moore, who played right guard last season for the Colts, has gotten zero attention.
"Most offensive linemen, they'd all like to go kind of unnoticed," Helton said. "That means nothing bad is happening. He's done a great job for us. He's a very solid player."
The soft-spoken Moore is doing such a commendable job that Matthews calls him the best center he has played with during nine NFL seasons. Moore's snaps are usually flawless, with Matthews seldom needing to exert effort getting the ball.
"People take the snap for granted," Matthews said yesterday. "But he [Moore] snaps it very well. You don't have to squat down. Some centers that you play with, you have to squat down too much, and you have a hard time seeing the defense.
"He's only had one bad snap all year. And when that happens, then people start noticing the center. But Larry's done a great job for us all year."
It has been difficult to tell that Moore is playing center for the first time in three seasons. During the offseason, the Redskins tried to re-sign center Cory Raymer but the club couldn't match the San Diego Chargers' offer of $10.5 million over five years, which included a signing bonus of $2.5 million. The Redskins signed Moore as a Colts free agent to a three-year, $3 million deal although he had started 27 of his previous 32 games at right guard.
The last time Moore played center was 1999, when the Colts gave up just 14 sacks, the best in the NFL that season and the fewest in franchise history. (The Colts' line also helped running back Edgerrin James become only the 13th rookie to lead the league in rushing.) Moore's return to center wasn't daunting, he said, because the sixth-year veteran wasn't the only one learning a new scheme. Even Pro Bowl tackles Chris Samuels and Jansen were forced to adjust to Steve Spurrier's pass-oriented system.
"It was a new system for everybody, so we were all learning together," said Moore, who earns $525,000 this season and received a $500,000 bonus. "We were all talking about different ways to do stuff. We were all trying to figure out how to block and who to block. That made it a little easier."
Moore's athletic ability also helps him as a center. The 300-pounder is relatively nimble, which allows him to quickly help other offensive linemen.
"Larry is a really good athlete," Samuels said. "A lot of times, centers are just guys that kind of play within a yard or two from their starting position. They are not really that athletic. But Larry is a different type of center. He goes out well on the screens, and things like that."
Against the Colts, Moore had been playing with flu-like symptoms and cramps. The Redskins were up 23-15 when Moore's bad snap -- "That one was way over my head," Matthews said, smiling -- forced a fourth and 22 with 8 minutes 56 seconds left.
The Colts returned the Redskins' punt 34 yards, and five plays later cut the lead to 23-21. Moore's mistakes have been few this season. Nevertheless, he took much responsibility when the offensive line struggled early on.
"I do take it personally," Moore said. "The offensive line is five guys working as a team, trying to get the job done. If there's problems on the offensive line, I don't feel like I'm playing solid. I think there's always something else you could do.
"I've broken down sometimes, and I've had to rely on other people to help me out. That's just how the offensive line works."
Although the center is not the most glamorous position on the offensive line, it's one of the most important. The center is the quarterback of the crew, instructing the other linemen for blocking assignments and locating defenders for possible blitzes. Moore has done well in that role.
"Nobody really noticed Larry until the bad snap," Samuels said. "But Larry's probably been the rock on the offensive line."