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SI.com columnist Peter King fills in the big picture for the 2008 season
BY MID-AUGUST, I'd made up my mind: This was going to be the Year of the Jaguar. I'd been to Jacksonville, liked the club's off-season tinkering, was sure David Garrard wouldn't be a one-hit wonder and thought to myself, This is the season for an AFC power shift. Not that I ever get the Super Bowl teams right in August. I famously picked the Browns to make it in 1995—three months before their season went up in flames with the news that the franchise was moving to Baltimore. But what would a season be without my horrendous forecast? The Jaguars over the Cowboys in Super Bowl 43 in Tampa.
Then I went to the Patriots' camp in Foxborough and sat in the press tent, which was set up behind an end zone with one side open to the field.
Twenty yards away, his back to me, Tom Brady barked signals in an 11-on-11 drill. Randy Moss was split right, Wes Welker was in the slot and Jabar Gaffney was split left. Brady took the snap. Moss sprinted straight up the seam, a step ahead of the pursuing corner, without a safety over the top. He never looked back. Brady scanned the field and lofted a pass over the oncoming rush and up the seam. One of hundreds of plays in dozens of practices I'd seen over the past month. There was nothing special about the route, the decision or the throw.
When the ball was five yards out of Brady's hand, Moss had not turned back to look for it.
When the ball was 10 yards downfield, Moss still hadn't looked.
When the ball was about five yards from him, Moss finally glanced up. As he did, the pass dropped over the corner's outstretched hands, right into Moss's. He caught it in stride, 18 yards from the line of scrimmage, and ran untouched upfield.
I thought, Here are two great players who really didn't know each other at this time last summer—and then had the most prolific year a quarterback and receiver ever had as New England set the NFL record for points in a season. Now Moss and Brady know each other's tendencies, communicating with winks and nods and other body language, the way Mark Duper and Mark Clayton knew Dan Marino, the way Jerry Rice knew Joe Montana.
It might sound ridiculous to suggest a quarterback who threw 50 touchdown passes in a season and a receiver who caught 23 of them could be better. But I had just seen for myself how they could, whether or not it would show up in their stats.
Now I'm thinking, Jacksonville is not going to beat New England in January. Not in Foxborough, which is likely where the game would be if they met in the playoffs.