Beat him, smack him, mangle him, he’s the Patriots amazing wide receiver Randy Moss! The Steelers secondary is going to treat him like a Stretch Armstrong doll, and basically pound on him each chance they get. It’s really the only way to limit the NFL’s greatest deep threat. If he does get going outside the numbers, though, it could be a long afternoon...
Big games between two of the best teams in the game usually are decided by big plays. Which team makes more of them at the right time? Moss is Mr. Big Play. Last week, he became the first wide receiver to ever catch 17 or more touchdowns in three seasons. Likely, by the end of the season, Moss will also be the only player to be on both of the two highest scoring offenses in NFL history - the 2007 Patriots and the 1998 Vikings.
While his quarterback, Tom Brady, is a little tougher to limit, Moss has strangely suspect recently. In his last two games, he has nine catches for 79 yards (8.5 ypc). Philadelphia and Baltimore largely limited Moss by playing him physically, and with a safety rolling over the top of him, they were able to limit his big-play ability - which is the key to Sunday’s game.
Moss is a walking, talking Big Play. It’s the Steelers who have been doing the talking, however. FS Anthony Smith’s (media-fueled) “guarantee” is all over, and the Patriots responded yesterday with the typical response: Who is Anthony Smith?
That was DE Ty Warren’s question anyway, because, ya know, Ty Warren is one of the most well-known and top-producing players in the game.
Conveniently enough for our “hear what we want to” NFL media, they seem to have forgotten SS Rodney Harrison’s cowardly act of screaming at Ravens coach Brian Billickduring the Patriots eventual win last week.
This teaches us the lesson that, if you’ve been around the league longer than the forward pass, and you get busted with HGH, you’re allowed to yell directly at your opponent’s head coach. As Brady says, “well done is better than well said.”
Yeah, giving up 24 points to Kyle Boller’s Ravens is a job well-done indeed.
Back to Moss, though…
His reputation of being an Outside the Numbers receiver - one who doesn’t like going across the middle - is well-known, particularly by Steelers SS Tyrone Carter, Moss’s teammate in Minnesota from 2000-02.
From the T-R:
“I know he doesn’t like to get hit, man, Randy Moss doesn’t like to get hit. I played with him in Minnesota. The main thing he had problems with was when guys got in his face, jamming him at the line, hitting him when they got a chance and getting him off his normal pace.”
This type of mentality from the secondary is reminiscent of what the Patriots did to the Colts in the early ’00s. Beat up the receivers, get them out of their rhythm, and close the pocket around the QB.
Moss is no doubt one of the best WRs of all time, and is probably the best deep threat in the history of the game. But if Pittsburgh’s amped up secondary can keep him in check outside the numbers, he’s going to Alligator-Arm (extend his arms for a pass across the middle, but not bring his body into it out of fear of the hit that is coming) a few passes over the middle.
Bottom line: Even with Moss’s deer-like speed, if the defense largely takes away the game outside the numbers, the Patriots juggernaut offense is not going to be able to pour it on the way they have against most of their opponents.
Granted, limiting the Patriots offense this season means only giving up 28 points, but they aren’t going to only score 28 points if Moss has free reign down the sidelines.
Pittsburgh’s secondary has to bump the snot out of him on the line, get in a few shots on him on run plays, and make sure three guys or more hit him every time he touches the ball. If they apply the same kind of physical beating the Patriots gave WR Marvin Harrison in the 2004 AFC Championship game (the Colts scored three points that game), Moss’s spirit will be gone.
Expect Patriots coach Bill Belichick to set a mandate to try to get him involved in a big way early. With all the talking the Steelers have done, if they get a chance to back some of it up on Moss, they’re going to take it.