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Moss seems to get it

Plan wasn't fancy, but he makes it work

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - After watching fellow receiver Randy Moss haul in two long, high-arcing touchdown passes while being smothered by defensive backs, the words rolled off the tongue of Donte' Stallworth.

"Like a dog going up to catch a Frisbee," he said.

Well said, as Moss and the Patriots played the part of the angry pit bull in yesterday's 49-28 win over the overmatched Dolphins, pouncing early and never relenting.

Sure, there is strategy and Xs and Os to dissect from yesterday's dismantling, such as the offense going away from the two-tight end formations that have traditionally been the norm to counter Miami's pressure, and instead favoring more of a spread attack.

But forget the inner workings of how the Patriots dismantled the Dolphins, because as cornerback Ellis Hobbs said: "You can draw up the schemes, draw up the coverages, you can put the guys in the right position, but at the end of the day it comes down to who's going to make the play?"

Yesterday, it was Moss, and in a big way.

His 35- and 50-yard touchdown catches in the second quarter were remarkable plays, in part because they looked like they were drawn up at the bus stop. It was nothing fancy, nothing that came from a page deep in the Patriots' playbook to set him free.

Instead, it was about Moss running down the field and quarterback Tom Brady lobbing up offerings that, in his own words, simply gave Moss a chance to make a play in the end zone.

On the first, Moss had safety Cameron Worrell draped over him, with some late defensive help arriving after he made the catch. On the second, it was Worrell and Renaldo Hill attached to both hips.

Each time, Moss positioned his body to shield the defenders, then treated the football like the Frisbee to which Stallworth referred. On the second catch - which came on a third-and-18 play - Moss made it with one hand, securing it close to his body.

Great plays by Moss? Bad plays by the defense?

Some will see it both ways, but there is no question which side the quarterback is on.

"I can't take credit for Randy's touchdown catches," Brady said. "That's all Randy Moss."

Moss finished with four catches for 122 yards and the two touchdowns, and also made a dazzling one-handed catch that didn't count, on a fake-spike play in the second quarter in which he was out of bounds.

Moss declined comment after the game but his teammates had no problem speaking on his behalf.

"It's just one of those things where you're just shaking your head saying, 'You've got to be kidding me.' It just doesn't even look fair," tight end Kyle Brady said. "It kind of reminds me of what Brett Favre does when he just throws the ball up there and lets his guys go get it. Randy is so tall and rangy, with such long limbs, and he just has tremendous ability to track the ball in the air and make great judgments when to go get it."

Receiver Jabar Gaffney said he played with another top talent with the Texans, Andre Johnson, "but Moss is different, a whole lot different. Those were two amazing catches."

Fellow receiver Kelley Washington saw Moss morph into something else when he went up to snare the long balls.

"He's a football player but once the ball is in the air, he turns into a basketball player, using his height and his long arms," Washington said. "It's just tough for defensive backs, because he's 6-4 and with long arms. He's a perfect combination when you're talking about down the field and making plays like that. We see that all the time in practice, but it's unbelievable to do that out here on this stage, with two people on him."

Dolphins cornerback Will Allen said Moss, "lets defenders jump, and then he can kind of shoulder us up to the ball. He doesn't really go up and really attack the ball. He's just good at judging the ball and shouldering people off, kind of like rebounding."

The style of throw to Moss - the long, high-arcing delivery into coverage - is a new addition to the Patriots' repertoire. Remember, as the quarterback, Brady often talks about how the Patriots' passing game is designed to throw to the open man. So why make throws to Moss when he's clearly covered?

The answer was on full display yesterday: Because Moss, who has 44 catches for 732 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season, still can make them.

"I just put it up there and he jumps up and makes the catch," Brady said. "He's such a mismatch out there. He has a size advantage, a speed advantage on most every defensive back he plays. So you have to give him a chance."

But even on third and 18 - a down and distance in which there are few plays to call upon - did Brady really think it would work?

"I just put it up there and he has as good a chance as anybody," Brady said. "He just jumps up there and it's pretty fun."

Stallworth, once again, put it best.

"Moss is nuts, man. He's a freak," he said. "They don't call him the Super Freak for nothing."

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com.

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