Sterling Moore Doesn't Want One Play to Make Up His Resume

The former Patriot looks back at the biggest moment of last year's AFC Championship Game.

sterling moore
Sterling Moore photo via Facebook

After last year’s AFC Championship Game, I had a hard time watching the highlights. Reliving that afternoon wasn’t enjoyable. It was stressful. The Patriots barely survived, winning 23-20 after Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a field goal that would’ve forced overtime. During Baltimore’s final drive, Lee Evans even appeared to score the go-ahead touchdown. He was, however, denied by New England defender Sterling Moore—a rookie—who managed to strip the ball from the receiver. Just thinking about that particular play still makes me nervous. In fact, Moore feels the same way. This week, Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks caught up with the 22-year-old cornerback:

Moore, an undrafted collegiate free agent, was the unlikely man in the middle of all that drama, and even a year later he still feels the razor-thin separation between the heroic role he played, and the infamy he narrowly escaped.

“Honestly, I really hate seeing that play replayed, because it always brings up how close I was to losing the game for us,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Dallas on Tuesday. “Literally that’s the thing that crosses my mind the most. When I saw the ball go by me, I really thought I had lost us the game and our chance to go to the Super Bowl. And that feeling comes back to me every time I see that ball in the air.”

Most fans can relate to that reaction. For many of us, watching sports isn’t always a joyful experience. Often a close victory will result not in giddiness, but a sense of relief. I swear, until about a week after last year’s AFC title game, I had to look away whenever ESPN replayed Moore’s strip. I was sure that I’d been tricked, and that Evans really did hold on to the ball.

“Honestly, sometimes it feels like that’s the only thing I’ve ever done in the NFL,” said Moore, who actually started three of his six games with the Patriots in 2011, recording a pair of interceptions. “But I really didn’t realize or understand the magnitude of that play at the moment. Really not until after [Cundiff] missed the kick and I realized we were going to the Super Bowl.

“At the time, I didn’t think it was going to be the defining play of the game, because my mind was getting ready to go to overtime. I 100 percent thought he was going to make that kick and we were going into overtime. The moment didn’t hit me until after it happened and what it meant became clear.”

Moore, who the Patriots released in October, is now a member of the Dallas Cowboys. But a year after it happened, that play, that one incredibly consequential play, sticks with him. He knows he may never escape its implications, although as he told Banks, he’d rather it not be his only contribution to NFL lore.

“If that’s it, I’m not OK with it, because that means I didn’t do much in this league,” Moore said. “I just try to keep pushing because I don’t want to be remembered for just that one play. That can’t be the only thing I do. I’m hoping there’s more big plays to come.”