All the elements were in place
FOXBOROUGH - It was the perfect storm for Tom Brady and Randy Moss.
It’s hard for anyone to say they saw either yesterday’s mid-October snowfall or the Patriots’ franchise-record 59-point outpouring coming, but the rekindling of the Brady-Moss magic should have been easy to forecast.
A team with the second-worst pass defense in the league missing both of its starting corners (Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper) and its nickel back (Vincent Fuller) was facing a Hall of Fame quarterback-wide receiver combination that had something to prove. All week long Bill Belichick had hammered into his team that it had yet to complete a pass play of 40 yards or more.
It turned out that Belichick did something that the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers couldn’t do yesterday - challenge Brady and Moss.
The result was a 59-0 white-washing of the Titans, who fell victim to a record- setting blizzard of yards (619 total yards of offense) and points at snowy Gillette Stadium, as the Patriots provided a chilling reminder to the rest of the NFL that Brady and Moss are still capable of lighting it up on any given Sunday.
Brady was 29 of 34 for 380 yards and tied his career high with six touchdown passes, which was set during the 2007 season. He accomplished something that he didn’t even do during that record-setting season, establishing an NFL mark by throwing five of them during the second quarter, when New England outscored the Titans, 35-0, to take a 45-0 halftime lead.
For the first time since his reconstructive knee surgery this was vintage Brady. How good was No. 12? After his fourth touchdown pass of the second quarter, a 30-yarder to Wes Welker with 1:53 left in the half that put the Patriots up 38-0, Brady was 18 of 19 for 301 yards with four touchdowns.
Moss (eight catches for 129 yards) caught three of Brady’s six touchdown passes, including a 40-yard flea-flicker in the second quarter that opened the floodgates. He recorded the 62d 100-yard game of his career and his 33d multiple-TD reception game, both of which only trail Jerry Rice.
Entering the game, Moss’s longest reception of the season was 36 yards and he had just one touchdown reception.
“It was an opportunity for them to take advantage of a secondary that’s been battered and bruised,’’ said Titans safety Chris Hope. “Three of our main guys are hurt, Cortland Finnegan, Nick Harper, and Vincent Fuller. We have three rookies playing against one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game and probably one of the greatest receivers to ever play the game. It was obviously an opportunity to try to exploit that.’’
The hope is that yesterday’s exploitation of the Titans leads to similar exploits the rest of the season for Brady and Moss and a revival of the Patriots’ offense, which entered yesterday averaging 20.8 points per game and exited averaging 27.2.
Any doubt that Brady and Moss had rediscovered their mojo in the snow was erased on the first possession of the second half, which ended with Brady making a beautiful back-shoulder throw to Moss for a 9-yard touchdown that put the Patriots ahead, 52-0. Fittingly, that was Brady’s final throw of the day.
The Patriots likely won’t face a secondary as poor or porous as the Titans, who allowed a 300-yard passer for the fifth time in six games, the rest of the season, but the confidence gained from this pass-a-palooza could carry over for the rest of the season.
“Every week we’re learning something more about ourself and what we need to do,’’ said Brady, who threw for a 345 yards in the first half, another franchise record. “There is no doubt that a game like this can really give you a lot of confidence, and we’re confident. We’ve always been a confident team. I think we’ve been a disappointed team at times this year, not performing the way we expected to.’’
Moss chose to let his play speak for itself yesterday, as he didn’t talk after the game.
It’s not a coincidence that when Moss had a huge day, so did fellow wideout Wes Welker, with a career-high 150 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns on 10 catches. That’s the way the Patriots’ offense works. This is a symbiotic relationship between Brady, Moss, and Welker. They force defenses to pick their poison and generate big plays.
Welker generated the Patriots’ first 40-yard-plus pass play of the season when he hauled in a 48-yarder in the first quarter that set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal and kicked off a stretch of eight straight Brady-engineered drives that ended in points.
“We were able to do that a little bit today,’’ said Welker of the big plays. “But it’s something that definitely needs to be a part of our offense. I think we’ve been so close on a bunch of them that we were just barely missing, and today we were able to hit on some of those and that made the game a lot easier.’’
Brady acknowledged that scoring 59 points every week isn’t realistic, but that the Patriots’ offense and the passing game in particular are capable of producing a lot more than they’ve shown before yesterday’s game.
“I think when we execute better this is the outcome,’’ said Brady. “Not every game are we going to win by this many points, but we’re going to score touchdowns. We’re going to get the ball in the red area. We’re going to get the big plays. We’re going to change the field position with big plays. We had a lot of good runs out there, too. I think this just shows us that what we’ve done up to this point, if we’re able to execute well we’re able to score points.’’
Scoring points is still this team’s best manner of getting to where it wants to go, which is back to the Super Bowl. The defense has been better than expected through the first six games and forced five turnovers yesterday, including three in the second quarter that all led to Brady touchdown passes, but the Patriots will go as far as Brady can carry them.
“It was fun to see the way we performed out there,’’ said Brady. “Hopefully, it helps us going into next week.’’
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.