The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

It's Moss's M.O.

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"I play when I feel like it'' was the line that defined the early part of Randy Moss' career. That's why Bill Belichick got him for just a fourth-round choice and Moss paid him back, catching a record 23 touchdown passes in his magical (until the end) first season in New England.

On Sunday, he had a bad game and we're back to talking again whether Randy is dragging his team down.

"We knew he was going to shut it down," Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble told Albert Breer of the Boston Globe after the Panthers lost 20-10 to the Patriots on Sunday. "That's what we wanted to do to him. That's what we did. He'd just give up a lot. Slow down, he's not going deep, not trying to run a route. You can tell, his body language..."

OK. But you lost the game Chris. The Patriots, despite all the talk of their "terrible swoon,'' are 8-5 and in first place in the AFC East, hardly "dragged down'' by anyone else's standards -- the Super Bowl champion Steelers are 6-7. Moss, aged 32, has 69 catches for 1,074 yards and nine touchdowns, a pretty good season for almost any wide receiver -- close to what Plaxico Burress, for example, had two seasons ago (70, 1,025, 12) when he was considered a No. 1 receiver and capped his year by catching the winning TD in the Super Bowl.

Why did Moss dog it Sunday? Probably because he was one of four Patriots sent home from practice last week for being late on a day when snow delayed their arrival. All were veterans and Belichick obviously decided that was the way to send a message. One of them, Adalius Thomas, was vocal about it and he was inactive Sunday. Moss played, but probably wished he didn't -- he loafed on one route that led to an interception, played when he felt like it and fumbled the only pass he caught.

When Belichick, who knows Moss has a tendency to sulk, was asked afterward if it was important that the coaches make sure he doesn't "disengage,'' Belichick replied in his stoic way: "It's important for everybody to do their best and play well this time of year.''

Most of his players will. Randy might. But in any event, these aren't close to the Patriots that won 18 straight games two seasons ago before losing the Super Bowl on that Burress catch. Their assets are Tom Brady, Wes Welker AND Randy Moss. Most likely, they will make the playoffs but not the Super Bowl this season.

Will that be Moss' fault? No.

By Dave Goldberg  |  December 14, 2009; 9:40 AM ET  | Category:  New England Patriots Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Moss didn't only quit against Carolina. He also quit running routes the previous weekend, against the Saints. Were they in a winnable situation? No. But should he have tried? Yes.

Posted by: kdeshpande | December 14, 2009 4:11 PM

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