Yet afterward, the Panthers' defensive backfield took some time to make some serious accusations about Moss and his lack of effort.
But despite Chris Gamble's profound knowledge that Moss would "shut it down" if Carolina could "get to him," that didn't seem to help the Panthers win the football game. In fact, if Gamble and his mates were as focused on Moss as they said they were, that's probably why they lost. By focusing so much energy on "demoralizing" Moss, they allowed Wes Welker to run free for 10 catches and 105 receiving yards.
In the locker room, the Panthers sounded as if they felt triumphant for their feat.
"He had the one catch, and he fumbled," safety Chris Harris told The Boston Globe. "We stayed on top of him. We were not gonna let him catch a deep pass. That's his game. If he can't get it going, he gets out of sync."
Even with the lack of credibility of a bunch of guys who just lost, there's no question that Moss was rather unspectacular with his one catch and multiple drops. Even the most staunch supporters of Moss would have a hard time defending the receiver's play. That list of fans includes Tom Brady.
"Yeah, I mean, it’s frustrating as a player when you’re … you know, he was frustrated in himself and the situation and it’s just something you’ve got to fight through," the quarterback said after the game. "He keeps fighting through it, and you have those days where it’s not all great, but you keep lining up, and you keep going up. You’ve just got to keep fighting."
That's where the Moss story will get interesting. Moss, as he has been criticized for in the past, may have lost some fight on Sunday (though his key block on a screen on the left sideline probably won't be replayed on SportsCenter all day on Monday). Whether those past criticisms have been fair won't matter next week, when Moss gets a chance to prove himself.
And fortunately for Moss, he'll have the perfect opponent to do so. These are Moss' stats as a Patriot against the Bills:
Week 3 vs. Buffalo: 5 catches, 115 yards, two touchdowns
Week 11 at Buffalo: 10 catches, 128 yards, four touchdowns
Week 10 vs. Buffalo: 5 catches, 53 yards
Week 17 at Buffalo: 1 catch, 13 yards (you may remember the wind that day caused the goalposts to tilt toward the ground)
Week 1 vs. Buffalo: 12 catches, 141 yards
That's an average of 6.6 catches for 90 yards and 1.2 touchdowns per contest against the Bills, and it's something that Moss and Brady will like to take advantage of in Orchard Park next Sunday.
One player who's not ready to count out Moss is running back Kevin Faulk.
"He loves football too much," Faulk told ESPNBoston.com reporter and NESN insider Mike Reiss. "This is what he loves to do, and nobody understands that."
Regardless of understanding, the only thing that will ultimately matter will be production on the field. It's no secret that this Patriots team isn't the juggernaut it once was, and the wins that came so easy for Moss and Co. in 2007 are now elusive, available only after grind-it-out efforts against some lesser opponents.
But if there's one reason to inspire hope among Patriots fans, it's that anything less than maximum effort simply won't fly with Brady. Everyone saw Brady's talk with Moss on the sideline, but there's no doubt that the conversation that Brady holds with his receiver in private will be a bit more spirited. And given Moss' admiration of Brady, it's safe to assume that Moss will take Brady's words to heart.
On Monday morning, Brady seemed confident that Moss would bounce back.
"We've gotten a lot from him all year," Brady said on WEEI, according to Reiss. "He's one of the top receivers in the league right now. He’s up there in yards [sixth] and catches [13th] and touchdowns [fourth]. Every game plan that the defense comes up with is trying to stop Randy Moss. They all say 'OK, we have to stop Randy Moss.'"
For the Patriots, if the result is Welker finding plenty of room to operate, there won't be many complaints.
For Moss, this isn't the first time his heart has been questioned — it's not even the first time it's happened this season. But in this situation, it's important to consider that the source of the accusations came from a group of men that had just lost a game.
Moss wasn't his best, and if that continues, the Patriots will have some issues. But one poor performance won't determine the season for Moss and the Patriots, and if Moss "quitting" allowed the Patriots to win on Sunday, they just might ask him to keep it up.
As veteran cornerback Shawn Springs explained after the game, "Winning solves everything."