Don't get "Moss'ed" by Randy Moss.
Moss has more 40-yard receptions than any current receiver in the NFL, and it's that deep-ball ability that has made him a legend. Not just among fans and analysts but in the dark of defensive film rooms throughout the NFL.
"People calls his deep ball ‘Moss,'" cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt told Packer Report on Friday. "Whenever a deep ball is caught by anybody else, they say, ‘You just got Moss'ed.' He's really legendary in what he's done in this league."
Tramon Williams, who has emerged as one of the better cornerbacks in the league this season, obviously doesn't want to get "Moss'ed" in this monster midseason game. Williams, who figures to see plenty of Moss on Sunday night, hasn't matched up against Moss before but he's seen plenty of him through the years.
"When the guy came in the league, there was no one doing what he was doing," Williams said on Friday. "Anytime the ball went up in the air, he went over somebody – no matter what he had to do, go over the top of their head or whatever. It was just a saying. ‘Oh, he got Moss'ed.' Anybody you hear around the league, that's what they're going to say."
Moss, who dominated the Packers during their twice-annual matchups while with the Vikings from 1998 through 2004, is an absolute marvel. It's not just that he's tall (6-foot-4) or runs with effortless grace and an explosive extra gear. It's that he's so gifted at going up and getting the ball, whether the ball is on target or not.
"This summer," Whitt recalled, "somebody asked me to name the five top receivers and I named him No. 1 and they were like, ‘Are you crazy?' It's the simple fact that vertically, he's the most feared receiver in the league. Whenever a DB is feared vertically, you open up everything else. To me, he's the most dangerous receiver and he's the most accomplished deep-ball catcher in the history of the NFL."
Getting Moss is just what the Vikings needed in their all-or-nothing bid to get to a Super Bowl with 41-year-old quarterback Brett Favre. Their offense struggled early in the season with big-play Sidney Rice out after hip surgery. They tried and failed to make a deal with San Diego for Vincent Jackson but made a shocking trade with another Super Bowl contender, the Patriots, on Oct. 6 to bring back Moss. As good as Rice is, with four touchdowns in five career games against the Packers, Moss is even more dangerous.
In two games, Moss has nine catches for 136 yards, including a touchdown against the Jets two weeks ago.
"He's a dynamic player and I'm very excited about the opportunity to play with him," Favre said during a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Wednesday. "I'm even more impressed with him as I've gotten a chance to work with him, how intelligent he is. I mean, Randy's Randy. He has his moments, but he's such a dynamic player, I think for our young players to watch him practice, the way he handles meetings, is very, very impressive. That's the things I didn't know about him. I consider it a privilege to play with this guy as I would a lot of the players I played with during my career. This guy not only has the talent, he has the knowledge, the instincts. He has the complete package."
When the Vikings run their base offense with two wide receivers, the Packers could have Charles Woodson follow Moss, who normally lines up on the offense's right side. Or they could stick with their normal alignment, which means Williams – the starter at left cornerback – will see plenty of Moss. When the Vikings go with three receivers, Woodson normally lines up against the slot receiver – in this case, that would be Percy Harvin – with Williams at left cornerback and either undrafted rookie Sam Shields or veteran Al Harris on the right side.
"You've got to understand how to play him," Whitt said. "You just have to go out there and play. You can't back down, you can't be afraid of him. You have to play and go make the plays when he goes up for it. That's all. He's going to make plays and you're going to make plays but you definitely can't be afraid to go out and compete with him."
Moss loves Lambeau Field. There was his first trip to Green Bay, when he caught five passes for 190 yard, including touchdowns of 52 and 44 yards, on a rainy Monday night during his rookie season. The following April, Packers general manager Ron Wolf drafted cornerbacks in the first, second and third rounds in a mostly fruitless pursuit of finding a Moss-stopper. In Moss's last trip to Lambeau – his second-to-last game with the Vikings – Moss caught four passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns, including his infamous mooning of the fans in the south end zone to lead the Vikings' 31-17 playoff victory.
"It was kind of bittersweet to watch him," Favre recalled, "because, I mean, it was, ‘God this guy is unbelievable.' Usually, he was beating you and it was kind of like, ‘How do we stop him?'"
In 13 career games against Green Bay, Moss has 66 catches – a manageable five per game. However, those have gone for personal-highs of 1,243 yards and 12 touchdowns. The onus will fall on Williams, among others, to keep Moss from having another unforgettable Lambeau Field experience.
"Anybody should look forward to that challenge," Williams said. "He's one of those guys that you were probably still in high school or just getting to college when he came into the league, so you knew what he was capable of. Now, you're going up against him. You have a different look on things because he's your opponent. Yes, it's a challenge that I'm looking forward to."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.