September 29, 2016

Moss Appeal

logoby Dan Snapp
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Randy Moss for a fourth-round pick. Nearly five months later, and the sound of it still begs disbelief.

Randy Freaking Moss for a fourth-round pick!

What were the Raiders thinking? Certainly they had to get rid of him, as the team was unhappy, he was unhappy, and his production didn’t merit  the burgeoning numbers on the remainder of his contract. But trading the most electrifying player of his era to the powerhouse Patriots for a measly fourth-round pick?

Heck, if they traded him to the Packers instead, Colts GM Bill Polian probably would have anted up a second-rounder himself to seal the deal.

Within weeks of the acquisition, former Raiders coach Art Shell and his erstwhile bed&breakfast owner-turned-offensive coordinator Tom Walsh were telling any who’d listen that Moss couldn’t run anymore. The once and future proprietor of the Seven-Step Drop Inn also told Ron Borges, “Randy Moss is a player whose skills are diminishing, and he’s in denial of those eroding skills.”

Eroding skills? Sounds like the words of a man who’s out of football.

Moss, of course, has turned Patriots football on its head, completely changing the team’s offensive dynamic. Before, the talk was about Tom Brady’s even distribution to multiple receivers. Today, Moss and Wes Welker each get about 27 percent of the looks. It’s not the “Randy Ratio” but it signals a significant change in New England. With 22 receptions, 403 yards, 5 touchdowns and three straight 100-yard games, he’s off to the best start of any receiver in Patriots history.

A great year for Brady used to be 28 TDs, 14  INTs, and a 63% completion rate. With 10 TDs, 1 pick, and a 79% completion clip through three games, he’s set to destroy his previous highs.

The big hypothetical – “What would happen if Brady had Peyton Manning’s weapons” – is being played out before our eyes. We knew Brady was great in a Joe Montana “All he does is win” vein, but never in a Dan Marino statistical one. What if he’s both? Moss is helping to show Brady at his true potential.
   
“It wasn’t the Moss of old,” Phil Simms told us during the opener against the Jets.

Moss had just broken open on a crossing pattern, then took in Brady’s pass for an 18-yard gain, leaving Simms’ partner Jim Nantz lunging for superlatives. “The Moss of old,” Simms argued, “Would have grabbed that and you would have been, ‘Annnnd that’s a touchdown.'”

Simms was right. Moss lacks that overdrive he possessed as a young player. It was obvious on that play, on the 33-yarder later down the right sideline, and even on his 51-yard score.

Even without the top-end speed, he’s still the best receiver on the field. He’s got it all: size, speed, hands, moves, smarts, leaping ability and still enough speed to get the job done as a deep threat. He’s caught 22 of the 24 balls targeted for him. And as Moss has showed each week on some of his more spectacular catches: even when he’s not open, he’s open.

His football IQ is what attracted Belichick, who noted Moss understands double coverage as well as any player in the league. “He attacks all three levels of the field — short, intermediate, deep,” Belichick said. “Any time a player puts multiple pressure points on a defense, it’s hard, it’s stress.”

So how would Bill Belichick defend Moss?

He had two recent opportunities – vs. the Vikings in 2002 and against the Raiders in 2005 – and enjoyed little success. The Patriots pressed Moss at the line, and double-covered him often, but Moss still had 13 catches for 222 yards and a TD over the two games.

The Pats easily won both, and maybe that’s the point. Maybe like Belichick’s “If Thurman Thomas runs for 100, we’ll win the game” pronouncement in Super Bowl XXV, the plan is to let Randy get his, but we’ll stop everything else.

But then that’s also the key behind Belichick bringing him to New England, where stopping everything else was already a chore.

Comments

  1. The noble comments experiment has ended.

  2. JamesGarnerisGod says:

    “He attacks all three levels of the field — short, intermediate, deep,” Belichick said. “Any time a player puts multiple pressure points on a defense, it’s hard, it’s stress.” Dan, that Belichick quote lifted from “Direct Snapp” is the essence of what Moss brings to New England. Sure, the Moss conjured by his name is the deep-threat gazelle we saw on his latter TD against Buffalo. But his ability to be the last-ditch option to move the chains, a la Troy Brown (is he coming back?) and Welker, in addition to being the marquee pass catcher is what makes Moss a complete receiver. OK, I’m not exactly going out on a limb with that judgment. Here’s what seems to be getting forgotten in all this Moss talk: The Patriots are still the freaking PATRIOTS! That is, they’ll grind it out, run the ball down your throat, kill you with screen passes to Faulk, spread the ball around to superior tight ends and, on occasion, linebackers and eligible down linemen — and we haven’t even talked about the defense. You know, the defense of “limited talent” who somehow makes great, game-changing plays and, if they happen to be outclassed by a given elite opponent on offense — Peyton Manning, LT, Marshall Faulk and the rest of the then-Greatest Show on Turf — will simply punish you with hard hits, making you reluctant to run that pass route, or hit the hole downhill. Maybe hanging in the pocket won’t be such a good idea after all. And add to this attack Adalius Thomas, a healthy Junior Seau, an even more energized Colvin (and we thought he was 100 percent last year!), maturing d-backs, plus an undoubtedly revivified Bruschi and Vrabel — who no longer have to shoulder as much of the load themselves — and you get a whole lot of bad news for offenses in this league. Anyway (and I promise this is the end of this oppressively sized post), to hear talk radio callers, especially, but even some professional analysts, the emergence of Moss means that the Patriots have changed. Bullhunky! They’re the team they were the last few years, but with even more weapons.

  3. I think the Raiders were fed up and going to release him if they didn’t trade him, so they were glad for the 4th rounder. Remember at the time no one knew if Moss would turn his act around or even if he could still play near his former level. Similarly, a big deal was made about the pay cut Moss willingly took, but he knew that the Raiders weren’t going to pay him that anymore and so a cut was inevitable. That said, I’m thrilled Moss is here. I thought the Corey Dillon factor was high for him from the start. Now I worry that because he’s had such an impact on the O that if he goes, say, 8 more games and then gets injured, the Pats might not be able to re-adjust back to their old style. Wow, it’s so weird seeing the Pats with a dominant receiver. When was the last time that happened? Has it ever happened?

  4. Not like this, it hasn’t. Stanley Morgan would be the closest thing, and it’s not close.

  5. By that I mean overall skill/threat-wise.

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