- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
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"What's up, Dawg?" Gronkowski responded.
"Yeah, what's up Dawg?"
Kraft then showed his 15-year-old grandson, Harry, around the room, introducing him as a future great quarterback. He handed the AFC championship trophy to linebacker Jerod Mayo.
"One more game," Kraft told him.
"Sixty more minutes," Mayo said.
Few would have guessed that this trip to the Super Bowl would hinge on the right hand of a rookie defensive back as much as the right arm of Tom Brady. The quarterback who threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns in the regular season had just a 57.5 passer rating, with no TDs and two interceptions, against a Ravens defense known to befuddle him. "I sucked pretty bad today," Brady acknowledged after the game.
Instead, the man who saved New England was 21-year-old rookie Sterling Moore, who grew up a Raiders fan in Antioch, Calif., despising the Patriots because of the infamous Tuck Rule playoff game in January 2002. "I was finally able to let it go," Moore said of that Oakland loss to the Pats.
Undrafted out of SMU last spring and unremarkable in civilian clothes, the 5'10", 190-pound Moore endured the fate of many fringe players—signed and released twice by the Raiders, then signed by the Pats on Oct. 5 and elevated to the active roster on Oct. 15. He saw action against the Cowboys on Oct. 16, was released the following day, re-signed with the practice squad two days later and started three games in November. So anonymous is Moore that while he was recently shopping at a Best Buy in Mansfield, Mass., a customer asked him for help in the laptop section. Moore wasn't wearing the trademark blue company shirt, but he is familiar with them. "I used to work at Best Buy back in California," he said. "I might have [the name tag] in my room stashed away somewhere."
As an inexperienced body in a fluid defensive backfield rotation, Moore epitomizes Belichick's predicament but also his belief that, with just the right instruction, the mental and physical repetitions during the week can pay off on Sundays. Moore, though, surely shook his coach's faith at one point against Baltimore. With 3:48 left in the third quarter he let receiver Torrey Smith spin out of his tackle and race 29 yards for a diving touchdown that gave Baltimore a 17--16 lead. That mistake could have scuttled Moore's confidence and sunk New England. "Everybody was telling me, 'We know what you can do. Put that behind you and make a play for this team,' " Moore said.
In the end he made two. Down by three, the Ravens had second-and-one on the New England 14 with 27 seconds left. Moore lined up opposite receiver Lee Evans—and realized he didn't know the defensive play call. "I just decided to play man," he said.