|Randy Moss, hands-on in warm-ups Sunday, had problems during the game. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)|
Moss has backing of Belichick, teammates
Patriots quickly rush to receiver’s defense
FOXBOROUGH - Randy Moss wasn’t in the Patriots’ locker room yesterday. He watched parts of Sunday’s 20-10 victory over Carolina by himself on the bench, his paltry statistics buried on the stat sheet and Panthers cornerbacks Chris Harris and Chris Gamble burying him after the game. Yesterday, Moss’s teammates and coach came to his defense.
“I have a lot of respect for Randy,’’ Bill Belichick said. “I think he’s one of our best players. I think if you watch other teams defend him, they think the same way. Other than these two guys from Carolina after they lost another game, I guess they didn’t think that way. They haven’t won a lot of games.’’
For the second time this season, Moss was held to just one catch. He was targeted four times on Sunday: two passes were dropped, one was caught for 16 yards but then fumbled, and another was intercepted.
“We knew he was going to shut it down,’’ Gamble said Sunday. “He’d just give up a lot - slow down, he’s not going deep, not trying to run a route. You can tell [by his] body language. I know everyone who plays against him, they can sense that. Once you get him in the beginning of the game, he shuts it down a little bit.’’
When opponents get physical with Moss, Harris said after the game, the result is predictable.
“That’s what it is with him,’’ Harris said. “You get physical with him, and I don’t want to say he quits, but he kind of doesn’t run the routes the way they’re supposed to be run. If you get a jam on him, he’ll just ease up.’’
The scathing comments continued. Cris Carter, Moss’s former teammate in Minnesota, called the performance “pathetic.’’
“For me, as someone who teaches wide receivers how to be wide receivers and how to run routes and what type of effort and stuff it would take, it was pathetic, and I was shocked,’’ Carter said on ESPN Radio. “Because I know it’s in him, but I thought he had matured to the point where I wasn’t going to see it anymore.’’
But for those who wanted to attack Moss’s performance, there were those who defended him.
Former Patriot Tedy Bruschi, who played with Moss in 2007 and 2008, had nothing but praise for Moss as a teammate.
“There is a difference between frustration and someone quitting on a team,’’ said Bruschi, who is an ESPN analyst. “I can speak only from the experience of being a teammate of Randy Moss - he is the type of player I want to be my teammate, and I’m proud to say I was a teammate of Moss. He works hard, and he only wants to win. Yes, he got frustrated Sunday. You’ve seen frustration on every player’s face before, but I think everyone looks a bit closer at Moss because of his history. As his teammate, I saw nothing but hard work and dedication from him.’’
The inconsistency of the Patriots’ offense this season could mean a number of players might have smaller numbers, which is why Belichick said statistics are not important in determining production.
In recent weeks, Moss has been the player under the microscope. The last time he reached 100 yards receiving was Nov. 15 against Indianapolis (nine catches, 179 yards, two touchdowns). That was followed by five catches for 34 yards and a score against the Jets, three receptions for 67 yards against the Saints, and two catches for 66 yards and a touchdown against Miami. Moss’s 11 combined catches represent the lowest four-game stretch since he joined the Patriots in 2007.
“Stats are for losers. The final score is for winners,’’ Belichick said. “We had games when I was with the Giants and we couldn’t hold Gary Clark under 200 yards [receiving]. And some of those are wins. That’s the bottom line.’’
When it comes to Moss’s effort, Belichick said each player could have improved.
“I said the same thing about everybody on the team,’’ Belichick said. “Could players have played better? Could coaches have coached better? Sure. You know, Randy Moss has been one of our most consistent players since he’s been here. His production has been pretty good. I think you certainly see that in the way other teams defend him, that they must have an awful lot of respect for him, too. Which I do.’’
Quarterback Tom Brady went to Moss during the game and encouraged him to fight through the frustration, he said. Yesterday, on WEEI, Brady continued to defend Moss.
“Everyone takes liberties to say whatever they want to say in a situation like [Sunday’s],’’ Brady said. “I’ve seen plays made on Chris Gamble over the course of the season, too. Guys, when they play Randy, want to show what they can do, and I guess they came off the game pretty confident. But Randy’s one of the best players in the history of the NFL.’’
Wes Welker, who had 10 catches for 105 yards against the Panthers, said a bad game is not going to frustrate Moss.
“We’ve all had bad games and it happens to us,’’ Welker said. “Randy’s going to move on. He’s a fighter and he’s just going to keep on playing and doing his job. Things are getting played out of proportion at this point and we’ve just got to concentrate on what we need to do to beat Buffalo this week.’’
Running back Sammy Morris said he had no questions about Moss’s effort.
“I mean he comes to work every day,’’ Morris said. “From my perspective, every week I expect to get the best from Randy, and that’s what I see.’’
Monique Walker can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.