Think back to Week 5 of the 2009 NFL season. The New England Patriots appeared to be on the ropes with murmurings of their dynasty possibly ending after a tough 20-17 road loss to former Belichick apprentice Josh McDaniels’ Denver Broncos. The loss was gut-wrenching for an organization that has spent the better part of this decade dominating, winning three Super Bowls and producing the NFL’s only 16-0 regular season.
Two players seemed to take the brunt of public criticism worse than others for the Patriots much-publicized Broncos’ loss and 3-2 record at the time, quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Randy Moss. Brady was said to be bothered by his slow recovery from a devastating 2008 knee injury and some outright questioned if Moss was finished as an elite NFL receiver. In the Week 5 loss to Denver, Moss was shadowed throughout the game by former Pro Bowl corner Champ Bailey and was limited to one catch for 36 yards and no touchdowns.
Some analysts were even saying that the best way to control Moss was to be physical with him at the line of scrimmage and that he no longer had the ability to beat a jam. Moss’ numbers up until that point were inconsistent, showing 30 catches for 367 yards and only one touchdown. It was the one touchdown that caused many to say Moss had lost a step. However, the 12-year veteran and his team have taken off since the loss to the Broncos. The Pats have rattled off three straight wins over the Titans, Buccaneers and Dolphins to take back the lead in the AFC East division.
While Moss has significantly turned up his game over the Patriots’ winning streak, some have said his best efforts were against the lowly Titans (8 receptions for 129 yards, 16.1 ypc, and 3 TDs) and Bucs (5 receptions for 69 yards, 13.8 ypc, and 0 TDs) were no huge feats considering both teams were winless at the time. But the 32-year-old receiver showed this past week against the defensive Miami Dolphins that his game is far from being finished.
In a game that was tight throughout, Moss (6 receptions for 147 yards, 24.5 ypc, and 1 TD) had two big plays for the Patriots. He hauled in a 36-yard reception to set up running back Laurence Maroney’s one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and later, in the third quarter, he turned in the play of the game.
After Dolphins Wildcat Ronnie Brown threw a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joey Haynos to give the Dolphins a 17-16 lead, it was Moss who rose to the occasion.
The Patriots defense and crowd were looking a little deflated when the offense took the field deep in their own territory. After two plays, the Patriots faced third-and-1 from their 29-yard line. As Moss sprinted across the field on a crossing pattern, Brady hit his favorite target perfectly in stride. Dolphins rookie a cornerback Vontae Davis, who admitted that he had grown up watching Moss with the Vikings, was not far behind and attempted to take on Moss high. But it was the veteran that had a lesson for the youngster.
Using a Walter Payton-esque right stiff-arm, Moss sent the rookie flailing to the turf before sprinting all the way to the end zone for an electrifying 71-yard touchdown catch and run.
Brady after the game said of the play and Moss’ effort, “It’s always nice for a quarterback when you see the back of No. 81 sprinting down the field once he gets by them, there’s not too many guys that can catch him.’’
The huge play lifted the Patriots (6-2) to an eventual win and served notice that they are ready for their big Week 10 showdown in Indy against the undefeated Colts. By all accounts, Moss also looks like he maybe on his way to another Pro Bowl with quality numbers: 49 catches, 712 yards, 14.5 ypc, and 5 TDs.
Of Moss’ huge play on Sunday, Patriots O-lineman Logan Mankins said, “That has to be pretty deflating…That’s like getting stabbed in the heart’’.
Davis, who had an interception earlier in the game said of the future Hall of Famer, “That’s Randy Moss. He’s going to make his plays and I just tried to limit him the best I can.’’
Even though Moss has shown that he is a long way from being done, his career numbers (892 receptions for 13,913 yards, 15.6 ypc, and 140 TDs) are unbelievable. We will see if Moss can continue his ride toward Canton, but right now he is playing at a Jerry Rice-type level and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)Posted in Football, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Randy Moss Tagged: 2009 NFL Season, 2009 NFL Week 9, Football, Miami Dolphins, Moss Stiff Arm, NFL, Randy Moss, Sports