Speier: Moss is still the man
So let’s be clear. The Patriots defense got torched in the absence of both defensive lineman Ty Warren and linebacker Adalius Thomas. The New England offense put up 31 points and racked up 511 total yards (including 386 net passing yards).
So naturally, after the Pats’ 34-31 loss to the Jets…you want to line up Randy Moss in the crosshairs? Seriously?
(If possible, I would have given either a Jim Mora “Playoffs” or Allen Iverson “Practice” inflection to that one. Alas, the written word limits such flavor. Happily, Youtube can correct the deficiency of language: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI
I might understand this line of thinking if you were that traffic cop whom Randy tried to run over all those years ago. Or maybe even one of her relatives. But otherwise, I’m absolutely baffled.
Let’s start with the fact that Moss made the sort of highlight reel grab at the end of regulation that, had the Patriots won, would have been replayed for years to come at Gillette. With the Patriots down 31-24 and eight seconds left on a 4th-and-1 from the 16, Matt Cassel squirmed free of a potential sack, scrambled to his right and chucked the ball in the direction of No. 81.
Despite wearing Jets corner Ty Law like a cape (pass interference having been a surprisingly acceptable practice for the former Pats DB on the night), Moss fought to achieve enough separation to haul in the ball while falling out of bounds, dragging his toes inside the front corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
You and I both know that Dick Enberg would have dubbed the effort “delicious.” The touchdown allowed the Pats to send the game into overtime, and left teammates amazed.
“That’s what Randy does,” said Cassel. “He made a magnificent catch and he was able to keep his feet inbounds. That’s why he is as special as he is.”
“Randy’s an All-Pro player and a future Hall of Famer. It doesn’t surprise me,” said defensive lineman Richard Seymour. “They always double-cover him and roll the safety over the top, do a bunch of different things to take him out of the game. But he hung in there, made the play at the end of the game to send it into overtime.”
Moss had three catches for 26 yards and a touchdown, his team-leading fifth score of the season. But that steak (remember—it was “delicious”) wasn’t good enough for my colleague—it’s surf-‘n’-turf or nuthin’ for Bradford.
So where, you ask, was the lobster? Let’s just say that it wasn’t Moss who failed to deliver the crustaceans.
Cassel targeted him on only seven passes. They broke down thusly:
-1st Q: Incomplete deep ball that Cassel misfired badly, giving Moss no chance to make a play.
-2nd Q: Incompletion when Moss was separated from the ball while running over the middle.
-3rd Q: Two-yard completion on a quick out on the first play of the second half.
-3rd Q: Downfield incompletion on the sidelines, when Cassel threw the ball too far out of bounds.
-3rd Q: Eight-yard catch.
-4th Q: Incomplete deep ball with Cassel missing a wide-open Moss.
-4th Q: Highlight-reel touchdown.
Moss easily could have scored two touchdowns on the seven balls on which he was targeted. One of Cassel’s only bad passes on the night was on the deep ball when Moss was running free towards the end zone.
If the QB hooks up with his receiver there, the Patriots win the game and every Friday Morning Quarterback is discussing how that connection is really starting to click.
(By the by, something’s not right about Friday Morning Quarterbacking. The whole week now feels askew, no?)
Your criticism also fails to account for the defensive scheme. The Jets draped (quite literally, at times) multiple DBs on Moss in an effort to shut him down. (Pass interference was apparently deemed too lame for the officials to call last night. Go figure.) That strategy opened up the field for other receivers, especially Jabar Gaffney.
Tom Brady didn’t mind the occasional effort to chuck the ball downfield to Moss in double and triple coverage. Cassel is a different bird, and given a mandate of risk management, he’s looking for the open guy underneath.
Think about this: Cassel threw the ball a career-high 51 times last night. How many plays went for 20 or more yards? Uno, un, ha na, soon, ichi…One! And that was a dump-off to Kevin Faulk that the running back ran downfield. In any language, that’s a pretty paltry number.
Cassel has attempted 316 passes this year, and just 17 (5.4 percent) have gone for 20+ yards. That is the third lowest frequency of 20+ yard plays of any NFL quarterback this year.
Last night followed that familiar pattern, but Moss still made an impact, both when he did and didn’t receive the ball. The Jets continued to throw a bunch of receivers at him, and Moss diverted the defense and left other open receivers.
“They were doubling for most of the game—almost all of the game—so that just gave other guys opportunities,” said Cassel. “We understood that going in, that they were going to probably try to take him away, and he had a great attitude throughout the course of the game. He was very supportive and he made the big play when we needed him to make a big play.”
The fact that Gaffney ended up with seven catches (tied for second most in his career) and 86 receiving yards was largely a byproduct of Moss’ on-field impact.
Even in an offense that is designed to deliver the ball elsewhere, he is an existential threat along the lines of nuclear weapons in the Cold War: whether or not he is used, the fact that he is on the field dictates the strategy of defenses.
On the season—in a year when everyone is double-teaming Moss, and when the Pats have scaled back their downfield attack to allow Cassel to unload the ball quickly—Moss has 46 grabs for 615 yards and five scores. He’s on pace for 82 catches, 1093 yards and nine scores. That’s not historic, but it would be greedy to complain about such totals.
Is it possible that, at the age of 31, he’s lost a step? Sure. But the Pats are still having him run downfield routes to clear out underneath patterns for other guys. Moss remains a game changer, and is effectively doing what his team asks of him. His teammates praised his effort, praised the fact that he played four full quarters, in a game when he was not a featured option.
All of that being the case, your gripes would have Wallace Shawn screaming, “Inconceivable!” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-b7RmmMJeo) And rightly so.
Your focus on the transcendent significance of the individual, rather than the collective, strikes me as both wrong-headed and vaguely fascistic. After one of the best games of the year, in which the Pats blew up with their second highest scoring total of the year, you’re saying that Randy Moss is the problem?
C’mon, Bradford. Take your hatred elsewhere.
Alex Speier is a Senior Writer for WEEI.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bradford: Moss made a catch … finally
(Warning: Alex Speier will try and classify this as a ripping of Randy Moss. It is not. I love watching Moss most of the time. He is one of the best ever to play the game. He makes Wes Welker possible. So forth, and so on. It is an observation of Randy Moss' current lot in life. Read it, digest it, skim through Alex’s rebuttal, and then go back to complaining about the NFL’s overtime system.)
Up until the final play of regulation, I had my go-to line all set …
“The Patriots are doing pretty well despite not having their two best players from last season, Tom Brady and Randy Moss.”
Then Moss runs 20 yards downfield into the end zone, stops, leans against what was to be assumed a huffing and puffing Ty Law, holds his hand out while literally standing in one spot, and proceeds to make a GREAT catch on an equally spectacular throw.
Now Moss is the hero, the man who made the grab to allow the Patriots to experience the drama that is an overtime coin-flip. Heck, it was a GREAT catch in the most oppressively-tense moment of the season.
Let’s not turn a blind eye, however. On some levels, Moss continues to have separation issues.
When your best player goes down, you need your other best player to step up and help pick up the slack. Moss has gone the other way, and I’m saying such while fully realizing that Matt Cassel’s football-throwing teleportation isn’t on par with Bernard Pollard’s arch-enemy.
There is something missing with Moss besides his “Tommy”. We watch him on nights like Thursday evening and there is nothing dynamic about the image. He tippy-toes onto the field and we say to ourselves, “Man, for somebody who runs so daintily, he can sure burn it once the ‘hut-huts’ start rolling”. Then … nothing. Is it coverage? Sometimes. Is it Moss? Sometimes.
Before we dive into imagery – and there is plenty of it thanks to the mandate by every network to devote at least one camera to Moss’ every move – let’s deal with some hard numbers.
- Forget total yards, average gain per reception, and the other categories where scrolling down isn’t a necessity to find Moss’ name. Listen, he is having what would be considered a better-than-solid statistical season in the pantheon of NFL receivers. Yet, there are some numerical warning signs:
- He is seventh among Patriots receivers in the average number of yards gained after initial contact. (There has been one broken tackle all season.)
- On pass attempts of 41 yards or more, he is 1 for 4 when targeted, from 31-40 yards, he is 0 for 4. Last season? He was a combined 11 for 21 when airing it out at those distances.
Yes, yes, yes, the Cassel-factor is understood. But we should look at some of these metrics with a discerning eye. The overall premise? Once again, Moss isn’t separating himself as much as need-be. Add into the equation that when he is forced to become a receiver who isn’t putting distance between himself and his defender, the “making up for it with a warrior-mentality” on the shorter passes continues to not be his cup of tea.
Maybe Moss is banged up. Perhaps the extra attention constantly given him is taking its toll Or maybe I'm just expecting too much. Maybe. Perhaps. Maybe. Perhaps.
I do know that when the “Randy Cam” is activated in these broadcasts it is showing a receiver that isn’t necessarily dogging it, but for whatever reason hasn't supplied the necessary space between him and the opposition as much as he had 365 days ago. Long passes, slants, the works. Face it, in the battle of wily veterans (I feel in a deferential mood), Law too many times looked like spry one.
This isn’t ripping Randy, it is simply observing Randy. And, from what I’ve seen, we need to start seeing more of the old and less of the new.