For Moss, it's a stomping return to his old grounds
OAKLAND, Calif. - In a triumphant return to a place where he lived a two-year football nightmare, Randy Moss surely had plenty to say after scoring two touchdowns to help the Patriots pummel the Raiders yesterday. He shared none of it.
Instead, Moss decided to let his on-field touchdown celebrations serve as his only response.
After snaring scoring passes of 20 and 9 yards against his former team, Moss flipped the ball, turned his back to the crowd, and pointed with both hands toward the name on the back of his jersey - MOSS.
Surely, there was a message there. It looked like Moss was letting the 62,179 in attendance know that the player they saw struggle in 2005 and 2006, when his career dipped into the Black Hole, was now in a better place.
Teammates seemed to concur.
"That's just Randy being Randy," said running back LaMont Jordan, who like Moss, had a rough stretch with the Raiders. "I was definitely happy for him, especially the way the Oakland media out here had nothing but bad things to say about him during his stay out here. Randy can still play this game."
"I think it meant a lot to him," added receiver Wes Welker. "There was a lot of focus that went into Randy this week, but you could tell he wanted this game, and really wanted to show what kind of player he is."
Moss, who was booed when he took the field and when his name was announced over the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum public address system, finished with five catches for 67 yards and the two touchdowns.
When he first took the field in pregame warm-ups, it was clear that he had a little extra giddy-up, racing toward former teammates Andrew Walker and Sebastian Janikowski for a quick greeting before taking his place with his fellow pass-catchers.
Some players jog out of the tunnel. Moss was nearly sprinting.
"You could kind of see it in the way he was carrying himself, his whole little swagger," receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "He wanted to come out here and have a great game."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who generally prefers to focus on all 53 players, even broke form a bit yesterday when it came to Moss. In his opening remarks following the win, he said how happy he felt for Moss, mentioning him along with Jordan and quarterback Matt Cassel.
Belichick credited the 31-year-old receiver for producing big plays in the game, added that Moss had a great week of practice, and pointed out that his Raiders ties, along with Jordan, were helpful to provide "insight in how guys played, their strengths and weaknesses."
Moss's two touchdowns give him 10 this season, which ties the third-highest season total in team history. His NFL-record 23 touchdown catches last season top the list, with Stanley Morgan's 12 in 1979 ranking second.
Yesterday also marked Moss's 32d career game with two or more touchdown catches, second only to Jerry Rice (43) in NFL history, and moved him into the top 10 of the league's all-time receiving yardage list as he passed Steve Largent to move into 10th (13,092 yards).
That such milestones were reached against his former team wasn't lost on Moss's teammates.
"With anybody who is playing their old team, whether they are traded or whatever, there is some resentment, and especially given Randy's place in the NFL, I'm sure he wanted to make a statement," receiver Kelley Washington said. "He does every week, but I think it's especially when you come back to an environment like this."
While Moss waved off reporters after the game, he was chatty on the field.
"We were talking a lot and everything was positive; it wasn't trash talk," said Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who found himself locked into some man-to-man battles with Moss. "To me, he just looked like he was having a lot of fun. He just kept telling me 'keep your head up' and that he had respect for me, and was giving little pointers to help me out. I just think he's the type of guy who wants success for everybody."
Moss probably saw a little of himself when he looked across the line of scrimmage at Asomugha, a top player mired in a losing organization.
So, in that sense, there were no words needed after the game.
Moss's double-point to the name on the back of his jersey said it all.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.