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Moss' big-play ability redefines Patriots' offense

Posted: Sunday September 9, 2007 8:05PM; Updated: Sunday September 9, 2007 9:43PM
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Randy Moss caught nine passes for 183 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.
Randy Moss caught nine passes for 183 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here's the dilemma for all the AFC contenders. How do you consistently double-team Randy Moss and stop the rest of the Patriots offense? Because on Sunday, Moss made it clear single coverage isn't an option. But safety help isn't much better.

The Patriots made a lot of noise this offseason, but the addition of Moss is the move that has most significantly changed the outlook of this team. Moss, who caught nine passes for 183 yards and a TD in a 38-14 win over the Jets, elevates New England's offense into the same realm as the Colts.

The Jets tried a number of things against Moss. He toyed with them in single coverage, easily boxing out smaller defenders or working the sideline like Lynn Swann. When they kept their safeties back to double-team, they couldn't blitz and Tom Brady picked them apart. And even when they did help, Moss still beat them. On a 51-yard touchdown, Moss left three defenders in the dust.

When asked if he saw all the Jets on his tail during the touchdown, Moss said, "I don't pay attention to what's behind me." The same can be said about the controversial receiver's career. He acted as if his two-year exile in Oakland never happened, instantly stepping into the star role for New England.

Moss showed no signs of the surliness or selfishness that marked his career with the Raiders or Vikings. He's already become proficient in Patriots-speak, crediting the "gameplan" and "execution," not telling everyone how great he is.

"I've been in the league long enough that catching balls and running after the catch comes natural," Moss said. "The biggest thing that I wanted to focus on this week was making sure my mind was fresh and tough enough to play."

Brady has never thrown for more yards to one receiver in a game and seemed pumped up by Moss' presence. Every pass he threw to Moss was almost perfect and you know the New England QB has to be thrilled about the opportunity to air it out every week.

''He was a great player before he got to the Patriots,'' Brady said. ''Obviously, he's still a great player.''

Belichick and his coaching staff are the envy of the league because they change their gameplan so radically every week. They'll run 80 percent of plays in one game, and pass 80 percent the next week. And that was before they had Moss and fellow new additions Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth.

With Moss playing well, defenses have to stretch much further, leaving a lot more holes for the rest of the Pats' weapons. They threw to Moss and Welker on Sunday, but don't be surprised if they turn to Stallworth and tight end Ben Watson down the road. New England loves to get everyone involved and Brady will keep his targets happy.

"As well as [Moss] played, I think the other receivers equally did a great job in their role and that's the important thing," Brady said. "The running game was there. The play action worked great."

Moss' performance was helped by the Jets' front four's inability to get near the quarterback. Next week's opponent, San Diego, may have more success creating pressure without having to blitz. But the Pats' have a lot of ways to keep San Diego off balance. Quick passes to Welker and Moss kept the Jets off balance and could offset the Chargers' pass rush. And Brady will stay in the pocket despite pressure and keep his eyes on receivers downfield.

New England had the 11th ranked offense in 2006. Expect the Pats to be in the top five this year and Brady to have his best statistical season yet. Even if Moss doesn't have this kind of production every week, his presence will be enough to elevate the entire offense.