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Jackie MacMullan

Moss has been mesmerizing so far

FOXBOROUGH - The results have been so mesmerizing it's tempting to draw grand conclusions, to fast-forward New England's football daydreams directly to Arizona in February, to a dynasty resumed, to gleaming rings even heavier (and gaudier) than the last, to glowing platitudes for yet another Patriots reclamation project.

Stick to reality? OK then, fine. Here's the skinny, strictly from a statistical standpoint: when the Patriots score 38 points, they are 3-0. When Randy Moss submits 100 receiving yards or more, the Patriots are 3-0.

When Moss plays for the Patriots, they are 3-0.

In yesterday's 38-7 thrashing of the Buffalo Bills, after Moss hauled in five catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns, he became the first player in NFL history to record 100 yards or more in his first three games with a new team. It was his 49th career game of 100 or more yards, and he now has 106 receiving touchdowns during his long and often tumultuous career.

Who knew? Should any of us have expected this kind of spectacular impact?

This is where cooler heads would offer a reminder to exhibit restraint. Moss is 31 years old and it could be unrealistic to expect him to continue to perform at his current breakneck speed, particularly because of the ever-present reality of injuries. Still, one has to wonder what the heck former Raiders coach Art Shell was talking about when he insisted Moss's legs were shot and his career was in decline.

We should all be so spent. Moss appears otherworldly; he doesn't run, he glides. He doesn't jump, he propels. And is it me, or does this guy float?

When Moss is locked in and engaged and playing this kind of team football, he is the scariest receiver in Patriots history, because he can catch almost anything. He is a gifted player doing a dance with a cerebral quarterback who must go home to any one of his multiple Man-About-Town properties and thank the football gods. How good is it to be Tom Brady? He's got Gisele, a photo portfolio that would put the Paco Rabanne model out of business, and now he's got the Freak plucking footballs out of the sky as easily as popping grapes into his mouth.

"You've got to give Randy credit," said Bills defensive back Jabari Greer, whom Moss torched on a 45-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. "It doesn't matter how big you are, how tall you are, how fast you are, it's, 'Can you finish the play?'

"Randy makes plays. And Tom put the ball in a good spot on that throw. There's a million things I could have done to improve my odds, but in the end, all you can do is give the man credit for catching it."

The play that designated Greer as "SportCenter's" poster boy for repeat humiliation came as Brady faded back, pump-faked once, then threw a perfect strike to the outside for a streaking Moss, who rose up at precisely the right moment, gathered in the ball, and continued down the right sideline. Bills coach Dick Jauron, a former defensive back, conceded he knew the pass was trouble the minute it was launched.

"Jabari's position wasn't bad," Jauron said. "It wasn't like he took the bait. He pumped him and stayed on top of him, but the ball was thrown so well, and the receiver is arguably in the top 10, maybe in the top five, in terms of skill."

When Moss was acquired during draft weekend for a fourth-round pick, the buzz was immediate inside his own locker room. The veterans knew his ability was unparalleled, but they also wanted assurances he would adhere to their team mantra. Moss has not only gone out of his way to be a good doobee (he congratulated the offensive line on his first touchdown, and handed the TD ball over to a young fan in the stands on the second), he's turned the heads of some of the most discerning football fans in these parts - his own teammates.

"We're watching him too," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "You see the replay [of the catch against Greer] on the Jumbotron, and you see that it's a one-handed catch, and we just look at each other and start shaking our heads."

Brady continues to protectively defend the honor of Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell, and Jabar Gaffney when asked to compare last year's receiving corps to this year's arsenal of weapons, but the contrast is ridiculous. It's like playing basketball with Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff one day, and Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett the next.

Moss is the main component, but Wes Welker has been the perfect complement, a possession receiver who neither glides nor propels but consistently serves as a savvy, opportunistic threat to score. Because of the attention Moss garners, there are also ample chances for Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth to break free.

If you shut Moss down, there's no guarantee you will beat the Patriots. But if you let Moss burn you for 100 yards, you are going down.

At halftime yesterday, New England led, 17-7, and Moss had caught just two passes for a grand total of 7 yards.

His first big snag came early in the third quarter, after Brady hit Welker twice in the middle of the field. On second and 4 from the Patriots' 32-yard line, Brady pedaled back, waited, then watched Moss break free for a 45-yard grab. That set up Brady's 4-yard toss to Gaffney in the end zone and effectively put the game out of reach.

"When Randy's out there making these great plays, you know the defense is watching for him," Welker said. "All that does is open up plays for the rest of us."

So how do you stop Randy Moss, other than hoping he will stop himself, as he did on a regular basis last season in Oakland? The scouting report indicates he doesn't like to be bumped or man-handled at the line of scrimmage, so it stands to reason teams will opt to become more physical with him, right?

"That's easier said than done," countered Greer.

Asked how he'd slow him up, Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs offered, "I'd guard him with a prayer. I'd say, 'Lord, please allow him not to catch the ball on me.' "

Hobbs was smiling when he said this. Come to think of it, most of the Patriots were smiling yesterday. Moss didn't stick around after the game, but my sources tell me he was smiling as well.

Here's a new stat for you: the Patriots are 3-0 when Randy Moss is happy.

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

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