Last season, as soon as Tom Brady went down and gave way to the unproven Matt Cassel, a number of critics in the media were waiting patiently for Randy Moss‘ time in New England to turn sour. They waited and waited, but it never came.
This season, it looks as though some folks are searching hard for a reason to jump on Moss. Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com is leading the charge, writing a 627-word piece castigating the Hall of Fame wideout for “dogging” it through yet another game this past week.
A game in which Moss made 10 catches for 116 yards as the offense gained 445 yards, mind you.
On the surface, the statement seems ridiculous. Looking deeper into the commentary, ridiculous can’t even begin to describe it.
Freeman’s biggest concern seemed to be that Moss wasn’t giving his maximum effort in run blocking. For starters, New England’s running backs rushed for 168 yards in the game, topping their combined total from the season’s first two games. Second, Moss was playing with an injured back, and, according to the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport, was in more pain than anyone really knew.
“By the way,” Rapoport wrote in his blog, “you should have seen Randy Moss hobbling out of the locker room, all stiff-looking. Definitely was in pain.”
Of course, that’s no excuse for Freeman, who claims that “Moss has been pulling this stuff for years. This is nothing new, and it wasn’t because he was hurt.”
If by “pulling this stuff for years,” the writer actually means missing a grand total of six games in his 12-year career and climbing atop nearly every statistical category in football history, then his point is duly noted.
Freeman’s strongest argument regarding Moss’ blocking ability was summed up perfectly: “Hines Ward, he’s not.”
With Moss’ 3,460-yard and 63-touchdown edge over Ward, that much is clear. Most teams prefer their receivers to be receivers, not offensive linemen.
It was also evident from Freeman’s comments that he either doesn’t get the opportunity to watch Moss play very often or he chooses to see what he wants to see.
“Moss not running his routes hard when the play wasn’t going to him clearly tipped off Falcons defenders that he wasn’t involved in the play and they acted accordingly,” he wrote. “One route, on a play not going to Moss, he literally jogged part of it.”
Anyone who’s watched Moss play knows that one of his greatest threats is his ability to lull an opponent to sleep. It’s a tactic that helped him catch 23 touchdowns in 2007. It’s a tactic that’s helped him become one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL.
It’s a tactic that, no matter what Mike Freeman says, won’t be going away any time soon.
But Freeman’s most egregious error came in the form of one bold, unfounded assumption:
“The Patriots seem content to put up with this tomfoolery because Moss still produces. Bill Belichick praised Moss after the game for making a lot of plays.
But there must be a part of the Patriot genome that says: What a dog.
What an unbelievable dog.”
That didn’t seem to be the case in the coach’s Sunday news conference. After Moss’ performance, which included a quick fade route on a fourth-and-3 play late in the third quarter in which he made a difficult catch over his shoulder while falling toward the sidelines to keep a scoring drive alive, Belichick discussed Moss’ impact.
“I think he did a good job attacking the coverage, the corners and even some of the split safety coverage, working on the safeties,” Belichick said. “We hit some, we didn’t hit some. He’s a tough guy to cover. … He sure made a lot of plays today.”
Normally, when a reporter asks a question about a specific player, Belichick shifts the focus to the team as a whole. Yet he felt compelled to gush a little over Moss, who looked like the only wide receiver on the team who wasn’t driving Brady crazy on Sunday.
Chris Baker, the only player for the Patriots to actually catch a touchdown in the win, echoed Belichick’s point.
“He made some amazing catches out there, and he does it all the time,” Baker said after the game. “That’s why he is who he is. He’s a big reason why we won.”
The rip job by Freeman is unwarranted, sure, but it also brings to mind Moss’ first-ever quote after joining the Patriots.
“You’re going to really see some things that you’ve never seen before,” Moss said to reporters in the spring of 2007, “and when it does happen, don’t say I didn’t tell you.”
He was right. On the field, we all witnessed history in 2007. Off the field, we’ve seen some thoroughly embarrassing written works. At least it seems Moss was prepared.