Randy Moss didn't play a single snap in the preseason. In fact, due to a hamstring injury, the first-year Patriot didn't practice throughout the bulk of August.
So by the time the regular season rolled around there were whispers by some that the mercurial wideout might be dogging it. Onlookers began to wonder if the new uniform and expected positive locker room influence had failed to convert the talented target to the Patriots Way.
But Moss took the field for New England against the Jets in the opener and gave Tom Brady what many thought he would provide -- the most talented, proven big-play target Brady has had the fortune to work with. The former misguided Viking and disgruntled Raider exploded into action with nine catches for 183 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown in which he beat a trio of Jets to tip-toe into the end zone. It was the third-highest yardage output in his career and most receptions in a game since his days in Minnesota in 2003.
As Reggie Jackson would say, Moss was the straw that stirred the Patriots' offensive drink in an impressive domination of the Jets that wasn't even as close as the final 38-14 score. When Brady needed a play, Moss was there to make it.
Said Moss, "I'm just happy and very much blessed to be in this position. I think I told you way back when I became a Patriot I wanted to showcase my talents. I think today I did that."
"Football is natural for him," Brady said. "I think he was born to play football.
"He was a great player before he got to the Patriots. He's obviously still a great player."
He's now a great player working with a great quarterback on one of the teams expected to compete for not only an AFC title, but yet another potential Super Bowl title. It's hard to believe Moss can help the Patriots offense much more than he did in the opener in New York against the Jets, but the re-polished superstar thinks the entirety of the New England offense can certainly continue to build in the coming weeks.
"Definitely. It's just like a kid getting new toys for Christmas -- he can't open them," Moss said. "That's what Tom has done with me being hurt, with (Donte') Stallworth being hurt and really having only Wes (Welker), Jabar (Gaffney) and Kelley (Washington) out there. He really didn't have all his toys to play with. Now that he has all his toys to play with, man, the sky's the limit for us."
That's the challenge a revenge driven Chargers defense will face this Sunday night in Foxborough. San Diego is still seething over the unexpected divisional round loss to the Patriots last January. But this isn't the same Patriots offense that barely squeaked by for the upset. No, now Brady has maybe as many weapons to work with as any quarterback in the game. That's a scary thought for the Chargers and every other team that will have to try and stop the new-look, big-play Patriots in the coming weeks and months.