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The amazing Randy

Moss' heroics, hair-raising antics dominate Vikings' upset in Lambeau

Posted: Sunday January 9, 2005 11:34PM; Updated: Monday January 10, 2005 11:38PM
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Randy Moss
Randy Moss "mooned" the Green Bay crowd after scoring his second touchdown.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For seven years now, they've been taking the good with the bad. The great with the simply grating. The moments of sheer artistry with the immature displays of asinine behavior.

You get it all with Randy Moss, and always have. The whole mixed bag in a purple No. 84 jersey. Sometimes he exasperates and distracts the Minnesota Vikings and leads them down the road to ruin. And some times, like on Sunday at Green Bay's frost-bitten Lambeau Field, the all-world receiver's ability to take over a game trumps even his own self-destructive tendencies.

In other words, despite his best efforts, some times even Randy Moss can't stop Randy Moss.

"Like him or not, say what you want about him, but the guy makes plays,'' Vikings center Matt Birk said of Moss, whose four-catch, two-touchdown performance made the difference in Minnesota's startling 31-17 upset of the Packers in the first round of the NFC playoffs. "He said he was going to make up for last week, and go out and make some plays. He showed up today.''

If it seems like Moss is forever having something to make up for, it's because he's always dancing that fine line between helping and hurting his team. Last week in Washington, it was Moss's selfish decision to leave the playing field with two seconds remaining in the Vikings' 21-18 loss that focused the spotlight on his head rather than what he had done with his hands and feet.

And this week, there's more. Always more. Moss not only contributed those two back-breaking touchdowns to Minnesota's cause, he celebrated the second one with a tasteless end zone gesture that's certain to keep him in the news all week long. If you saw it, you know what we're talking about, a faux "mooning'' of the stunned Lambeau crowd, complete with an imaginary dropping of his football pants as he crouched beneath the goal post.

I would say insert your own punch line here, but when it comes to Moss, what is there really left to say? For the Vikings, he is the best of times and the worst of times, all in one volatile package. Oh, and if I were Moss, I'd expect another missive on the league's official letterhead at some point this week. And you can bet the good folks in the Park Avenue office won't be requesting a contribution to charity, either.

"That's Randy,'' Birk said, trying to be diplomatic about the teammate who he publicly dressed down in Washington last week. "You take the good with the bad. We're used to a certain amount of drama around here. It always seems like there's something going on with somebody.''

But nobody in Minnesota creates more drama than Moss, whose refusal to dance to anybody but his own drummer has confounded the Vikings ever since he showed up on the scene as a highly controversial first-round draft pick in 1998. Love or loathe him, as Moss goes, so goes Minnesota. And thanks to his big game on Sunday, the Vikings are going to the NFC divisional round fresh off their first road playoff win since 1997.

"I told Randy before the game, 'You know what? You're going to be the difference today,' '' Vikings linebacker Chris Claiborne said. "You're going to get into the [defensive backs'] heads. He just played a great game today. He came up big and made some big plays. I don't even care about all the other stuff as long as he's on that field playing hard.''

To be sure, Moss played hard against Green Bay. Gutting it out on a gimpy ankle that he twisted at some point in the first half, Moss scored the Vikings' second touchdown of the game, on a 20-yard pass from Daunte Culpepper, and then added the 34-yard fourth-quarter scoring catch that capped Minnesota's third 31-point offensive showing of the season against Green Bay. On both touchdowns, Moss beat Packers cornerback Al Harris.

"It wasn't him,'' Harris said of Moss. "It was us. We did it. We weren't afraid of Randy. We hurt our damn selves. On that second touchdown, we called an all-out blitz and people didn't blitz. I'm putting it out there. Letting them know. Telling it just like it is. I'm not pulling any punches. We can't make those mistakes. That can't happen. It can't happen.''

But it did happen, not that we were treated to many of Moss' thoughts on his vindicating performance. Minnesota-area reporters say Moss hasn't conducted a full-blown, post-game interview session since a Sept. 26 game against Chicago. After Sunday's game, one intrepid Milwaukee reporter tried to extract a few comments from Moss in the Vikings locker room.

He might as well have been playing the state lottery, because his chances would have been better. The transcript of the colorful exchange is as follows:

Reporter: "Randy, would you take a question?''
Moss: "Everybody but Green Bay, homey. If you're from Green Bay, the hell with you.''
Reporter: "What about Milwaukee?''
Moss: "Nope. You're part of Wisconsin, homey.''

The pity of it all is that the side angles in the entertaining Vikings-Packers game were all rich in and of themselves. But Moss has a tendency to drown out everything else with his own performance, no matter how impressive or outlandish.

There was Brett Favre's ghastly four interceptions, which continues his recent string of dismal playoff performances. And Culpepper's boffo 284-yard, four-touchdown day, which also included a team-high 54 yards of rushing. And the sheer lunacy of the NFC's two bottom seeds -- the 8-8 Rams and 8-8 Vikings -- both winning on the road this weekend. Before Saturday, no playoff team without a winning record had ever won a post-season game. Now we've had two in two days.

And let's not forget the silly storyline of four or five Vikings players -- Moss included -- wearing their Afros in their full glory for the game. The premise? A team that picks together, sticks together.

"We're 2-0 with the Afros,'' said Vikings coach Mike Tice, mentioning his team's victory over Kansas City in December 2003, when it resorted to a similar hair-raising stunt. "It's just a thing the guys like to do. I think it gives them energy.''

The Vikings needed something extra against the Packers, the NFC North champ who already had beaten them twice this season by identical 34-31 scores. Losing seven of their final 10 games to back into the playoffs seemed to demoralize Minnesota last week against the Redskins. But all the adversity surrounding how they got to the playoffs, and Moss's petulant behavior, melted away on a cold day at Lambeau.

"The whole damn season has been challenging,'' said Tice, whose job was truly in jeopardy if the Vikings hadn't win on Sunday. "It hasn't been a whole hell of a lot of fun, I can tell you that. But today's fun. I'm going to enjoy that 40-minute plane ride home, I can promise you that.

"We put a long week behind us, and I'm proud of them. But you know what? That's what makes this even more satisfying, when you have a moment like this. And when you do, you cherish it. And I'm going to cherish the hell out of it. But hopefully we're not finished.''

On Sunday in Green Bay, Moss almost single-handedly made sure of that. After last week, he owed the Vikings one. But then, that's the way it always is with Moss. After the bad, comes good. And vice versa.

Don Banks covers pro football for SI.com.