THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Jackie MacMullan

Moss is even more polished

Email|Print| Text size + By Jackie MacMullan
Globe Columnist / November 19, 2007

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Randy Moss took stock of the jeers of incensed Buffalo fans, who vociferously objected to New England's going for it not once, but twice, on fourth-down situations late last night as the Patriots steamrolled their beloved Bills.

Moss knows what it's like to be an anti-hero, a polarizing figure, an admired yet despised talent. He has lived that for most of his professional life, a mercurial, gifted athlete whose immense skills and football intelligence never have been questioned but whose work ethic and team-building skills have.

Until now. Until here.

Since Moss arrived in New England, he has been, by all accounts, a terrific teammate, a dutiful student, a Bill Belichick disciple. He has mastered the complex offensive system, has adopted a low profile, has deflected praise on the few occasions when he has spoken publicly.

In exhibition season, he predicted he would not be a distraction or a detriment. He told his doubters he would prove to them New England had done the right thing by taking him on.

Last night, in the wake of his finest performance yet as a Patriot, Moss was told he had every right to declare, "I told you so."

"I'll take a pass," he said.

"I'm past all that," he continued softly, shortly before an onslaught of media descended on his locker. "By me showing up at minicamp, I think I put that all behind me. Everything's going good now. It's working out. I don't even want to dwell on any negatives from the past.

"What we're doing as a team, I think it speaks for itself. I don't need to be in the paper. I don't need to say anything. I think what we're doing out there says it all."

So here is what Moss had to say in upstate New York last night, in case you couldn't keep up with the offensive barrage he and one Thomas Brady laid on the overmatched Bills.

With his 13th touchdown reception of the season (and his first of the night), Moss set a team record, eclipsing Stanley Morgan (12 in 1979), who once was the standard by which all New England receivers were measured. Nice to know you, Stanley. This rolling stone will gather more Moss before it's done, and you might have to get used to being second fiddle in the record books.

Moss also set a Patriots record with four touchdown catches - all in the first half. That wasn't just a team record, it was also a personal record.

Moss now has surpassed 1,000 yards for the season (1,052) and is well within range of Morgan's regular-season mark of 1,491 yards, which has been in place for 21 years.

He recorded his seventh 100-yard game of the season (128 yards in all) and the 53d of his career, putting him well within range of the idle and injured Marvin Harrison (59), who is third all-time on the list and better get well quick if he plans to stay there.

So who will stop this Patriots team, which steamrolled the shorthanded Bills, 56-10, by scoring on every possession orchestrated by Brady's steady hand? (That's 7 for 7, for those of you scoring at home).

Who, if anyone will make this franchise pay for going for it twice on fourth down and short yardage inside the 10-yard line? The first time, the Patriots were ahead, 35-7, and looking at fourth and 1 from the Bills 3. They went for it, and scored when Brady lobbed a rainbow pass to Benjamin Watson in the rear right corner of the end zone.

The second time, Belichick and the boys were on top, 42-10, in the waning seconds of the third quarter, and it was fourth and 2 with the ball at the 10. This time, Brady hit Moss on a quick out which, naturally, secured the first down and eventually led to a rushing touchdown by rookie Kyle Eckel.

And Belichick actually likes Bills coach Dick Jauron.

Just imagine what he'll do to Eric Mangini and the Jets in Week 15.

Frigid Bills fans were so furious with New England's fourth-down play calling, they start chanting a nasty two-syllable word that cannot be repeated here.

Naturally, none of this has any effect on your New England Patriots, who continue to dominate both sides of the ball with such fervor that one wonders how anyone can mount a legitimate challenge.

Asked to analyze the beating his team laid on Buffalo, Moss pointed the finger squarely at his coach.

"Coach Belichick put us through it," Moss explained. "He kept telling us, 'Be ready. Be ready.' It was a hard week. Especially mentally. He tore our heads off on Monday. He tore our heads off on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. I've got to commend him for that. Not many coaches bite down hard like that."

Moss was an equal opportunity humiliator. He froze George Wilson on Brady's 43-yard touchdown bomb to him in the opening quarter to push the Patriots in front, 14-0. He burned old friend Jabari Greer on a 6-yard strike to make it 28-7. And, with 10 seconds left until halftime, he trashed Donte Whitner on a 17-yard score.

"From an execution standpoint, there's no telling what we can do," Moss said.

He has a dream quarterback, a dream team. He's not ready to declare it the best offensive team he's ever been a part of - "Check the '95 Vikings," he said. "We still hold the record for most points in a season" - but you wonder when those records will fall, too.

"It's all that humble pie that Coach Belichick fed us this week," Moss insisted. "It was more like humble pie casserole. Coach Belichick is not letting us get too ahead of ourselves. He has straight tunnel vision. I've always known Bill Belichick to be a helluva coach.

"I consider him to be the best ever."

The receiver knows his coach will catch some flak for those fourth-down calls. He's aware the Patriots are the most feared team in the NFL, but quickly have become the most disliked team as well.

Randy Moss can live with that. He already has.

Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail is macmullan@globe.com.

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