Moss is a singular sensation
MIAMI GARDENS - It's not as if he really went away, but Randy Moss returned yesterday.
And for that you can thank the Dolphins.
Miami generally opted to leave Moss in single coverage, and Moss predictably had a field day as the Patriots rolled to a much-needed 48-28 victory at Dolphin Stadium.
Moss had eight catches - two of the eye-opening variety - good for 125 yards and three touchdowns. Those were all season highs.
"I don't know why Coach disrespected me like that," Moss said afterward from behind sunglasses while calling out Tony Sparano, Miami's first-year coach.
"I am who I am and I love to do what I do," he continued. "Any time I feel disrespected I want to go out there and make it happen. I think they disrespected me today by playing the single coverage and letting me do what I love to do, which is getting in the end zone."
That's something Moss did with regularity last season while setting an NFL record with 23 touchdown receptions. But he only had five through the first 10 games this season before recording the seventh three-plus effort of his 11-year career to pass Cris Carter and move into third place on the NFL's all-time list with 132.
"He's making good plays and he's a great player," coach Bill Belichick said. "We've seen him do it time and again, and he continues to do it."
However, there have been a number of games this season when the Patriots' No. 1 receiver has been asked to do little more than keep two defenders occupied as the ball is thrown elsewhere. The most recent example came against the Jets two weeks ago when Moss finished with three catches for 26 yards (and one big TD).
"That's the kind of athlete he is," receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "Some weeks he doesn't catch seven, eight passes and he still has to keep his head in the game. But when we need to go to him he shows up and that's what he did today."
The Patriots came out in a spread offense and it didn't take quarterback Matt Cassel long to home in on Moss. He had a 9-yard reception on the opening drive, which ended with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
The Patriots' next possession ended with a turnover, one of two they committed in the first half. The ball bounced off the hands of Moss and cornerback Jason Allen before being intercepted by safety Renaldo Hill.
"We kind of sputtered a little bit with the interception and the fumble at the start of the game," Moss said. "But we overcame that and started making things happen."
Moss served notice of what was in store when he came up with a terrific, one-handed catch for 22 yards the next time out. His first touchdown came with 2:14 left in the first half and gave the Patriots a 17-14 lead.
On second and 4 from the Miami 25, Moss caught the ball at the 20 and shed Allen with a nifty move. He then lowered his head and fended off Hill while crossing the goal line.
Allen drew the unenviable assignment of covering Moss and was victimized a second time as the Patriots took a 24-21 lead with 6:12 to go in the third. This one came on a fade, Moss gathering the 8-yard pass in the right corner of the end zone.
"Regardless of what I expected, I just have to make the plays," said Allen.
Moss caught his third TD, a 29-yarder, midway through the fourth as the Patriots extended their advantage to 38-28. There was a lot of pushing between Moss and Andre Goodman, although it was the Dolphin who got called for pass interference.
"I don't really care who it is," Moss said. "I think if I see single coverage man to man I feel I can beat anybody in this league on any given day.
"I always preach every time I see single coverage that most of the time the safety is over the top so it really looks like single, but it's double. Double Moss. But today was single coverage. The safety stayed in the middle and the offense executed. I think we really came to play today."
No one more so than Moss, who served notice he's back.