Moss shows off several smooth moves
FOXBOROUGH - He comes off as rude, ridiculous, self-important, and difficult. And nobody gives a hoot because Randy Moss can make plays on the football field.
Moss was the game-breaker in yesterday’s vital 27-17 Patriots win over the Dolphins (wonder if John Calipari is claiming he has the patent on “Wildcat’’?). The Patriots were trailing by a point deep into the third quarter when Tom Brady lined up on third and 1 from his 29 and saw Moss open on a crossing route.
Brady zipped the ball to Moss, who applied an old-timey stiff-arm into the face of rookie corner Vontae Davis. That was that. Davis gathered no Moss and Usain Bolt wasn’t going to catch Moss on his way toward the lighthouse end zone.
“It’s always nice for a quarterback when you see the back of 81 sprinting down the field,’’ said a smiling Brady. “There’s not too many guys that can catch him. It was a great play and we needed it.’’
“It was a big answer by our offense,’’ said coach Bill Belichick, who has embraced Moss like a third son. “Had that pass not been complete . . . it was huge.’’
Moss had an interesting response for those who wanted to hear about the play. Wearing a fuzzy hooded sweat suit and a black cap with his name stitched on the front, he ambled toward the postgame podium promising, “Y’all got two questions, so use ’em wisely.’’
Those of you watching the Patriots’ house organ television station (Channel 4’s “Fifth Quarter’’) saw it for yourself.
First question: “About that 71-yard touchdown reception . . . ’’
Moss: “Just a play, just we executed. It was the play we called and everybody did what they had to do and 71 yards later it was a touchdown. So you really have to commend all 11 guys, because I’ve said once before, if you got 11 guys working together, anything is possible. That’s what we’ve tried to do here, is just execute on offense, and everybody did everything right on that play and you saw the results.’’
Second question: “What did you see when you were lining up on the play?’’
Moss: “Well, Wes [Welker] was on the other side and he took the safety to this side, so the good thing about it is, we run decoy routes, we got other people open, and when good things happen we all get a pat on the back.’’
With a reporter in the middle of a follow-up question, Moss abruptly turned and walked off the stage, out of the room, Bonds-like. There was no need for more talking. He had given us his game (six catches, 147 yards) and that would have to be enough.
We’re never going to know Randy Moss. He came to New England two years ago carrying considerable baggage and there was speculation he was finished as an impact player. All Moss has done since coming to the Patriots is catch passes and win games. He is a captain and he’s got Foxborough game balls. Woe is the reporter who accuses Moss of going through the motions. Belichick and his minions are ever-ready to defend Randy with froth and fury.
Now 32, playing his 12th NFL season, Moss is running toward Jerry Rice and Canton. His TD catch against the Dolphins put him at 140, tying him for second all-time with Terrell Owens. Rice’s 197 is the gold standard. Moss now ranks seventh all-time in receiving yards.
He has been Brady’s BFF since his Patriots debut on Spygate Sunday at the Meadowlands two years ago. That was the day when he kept snatching footballs off the top of the Jets’ helmets. Moss had a record 23 TDs in the 16-0 first season, then grabbed 11 more last season. He has five this year and he’s just getting started.
Twenty-one-year-old Dolphins corner Davis got an eyeful of Moss’s jersey.
“It’s tough for a young guy to come out and play a legend like Randy,’’ said Dolphins veteran Jason Taylor. “I’m sure when Vontae was in junior high, he was a Randy Moss fan.’’
“I just have to step back and compete with him,’’ said Davis. “That’s Randy Moss and he’s going to make his plays and I just tried to limit him the best I could.’’
The kid had his moment. Davis intercepted a Brady pass while covering Moss on the Patriots’ first series. But the game’s poster moment was Moss sticking his hand into Davis’s facemask on the 71-yard game-breaker.
“I wasn’t mentally defeated,’’ said Davis. “I knew he was going to make his catches.’’
It is the lament of just about every NFL corner who has matched up with Moss since 1998.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.