It’s pretty rare that a team finds a way to hold both Randy Moss and Wes Welker in check, but that’s just what the Saints did on Monday night.
The Patriots’ blowout loss in New Orleans marked just the ninth time in Welker and Moss’ 41 regular season games as teammates that they’ve been held under a combined 10 catches and 100 yards. And it’s just their second loss in such circumstances. Here’s what happened in the other eight …
Patriots 34, Browns 17 (10/7/07): This was the first time in 2007 that Tom Brady was slowed at all, and while New England did score 34 points, “only” 27 of them came on offense. Benjamin Watson (6 catches, 107 yards, 2 TDs) and Sammy Morris (21 carries, 102 yards) made up the difference.
Patriots 27, Ravens 24 (12/3/07): Easily Brady’s worst outing during the 16-0 run, the Patriots were saved by big plays in the passing game from Laurence Maroney and Donte Stallworth, and a late touchdown catch by Jabar Gaffney. Not pretty.
Patriots 20, Jets 10 (12/16/07): This was the game where everyone assumed the Patriots would win about 274-0. Instead, they slowed the game to a crawl by leaning on the running game (Maroney had 104 yards on 26 carries) and cruised to a win.
Patriots 21, Chargers 12 (1/20/08): The AFC title game, in retrospect, was a real indicator that trouble was ahead in the Super Bowl. The Chargers secondary shone, leaving Kevin Faulk (8 catches, 82 yards) and Maroney (25 carries, 122 yards) to help New England outlast the Bolts, who were ravaged by injuries on offense.
Patriots 19, Jets 10 (9/14/08): The defense carries the day in Matt Cassel’s first start, and the Patriots run the ball 32 times. Cassel winds up with just 165 yards through the air, and Welker winds up on the receiving end of seven of his 16 completions anyway.
Steelers 33, Patriots 10 (11/30/08): The Patriots are blown out of the building as the eventual world champs knock the you-know-what outta Cassel, who’s reduced to checking down and taking sacks. Moss had a big drop in this one too, but the Patriots had trouble getting the ball on the perimeter period. Jabar Gaffney had the only other catch by a wideout, and that one went for 2 yards.
Patriots 13, Bills 0 (12/28/08): The Wind Bowl. Remember the crooked goal posts? Cassel threw just eight passes on that day, and the Patriots ran it 47 times in what became 60 minutes of clockball.
Patriots 27, Ravens 21 (10/4/09): This is the game, I’ve been told, when Brady really started to feel comfortable in his comeback from knee surgery. Here’s where it showed — He hit nine different receivers and the Patriots scored 27 points despite rushing for just 2.8 yards per carry.
The bigger question here has seemed to be whether the Patriots miss having that third receiver they did with Gaffney and Stallworth in ’07 and Gaffney alone last year. It’s hard to find evidence of that here.
Gaffney, in the seven games he was with the team above, had five catches for 32 yards and that one big touchdown against Baltimore. Stallworth, in the four games from 2007 when Welker and Moss were held down, had nine catches for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Do the Patriots miss having another weapon like that? Yeah, sure they do, particularly because Brady had a pretty high level of trust that Gaffney would be in the right spot at the right time.
But the truth is that when Moss and Welker have been taken out of the game, it’s been the backs and tight ends that have made the difference, and not the third receiver.