Brady to Moss connection uninterrupted

OWINGS MILLS -- Unlike some cellular telephone and wireless networks, there have been relatively few interruptions in the sterling connection between Tom Brady and Randy Moss.

Between Brady calmly rifling spirals with perfect timing and velocity and Moss' superior athleticism, size, big hands and ability to be open even when seemingly guarded adeptly, the New England Patriots' passing game has emerged as the modern-day equivalent of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice.

No other NFL quarterback and wide receiver tandem has racked up as many yards and touchdowns together this year with Moss leading the league with 16 touchdown catches and 1,095 receiving yards.

Now, the Ravens (4-7) have been charged with slowing down this offensive juggernaut Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium as they face an undefeated Patriots (11-0) squad that's averaging 40.1 points and 434.4 yards per contest.

The Ravens' top priority is containing Brady and Moss, a task most NFL defenses have failed at this year.

"That's my boy," said Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle, who might be checking Moss depending upon how Chris McAlister's strained knee responds. "He's in a zone. He's been incredible. His numbers speak for themselves.

"He can do anything. Three people can be around him and he can still go up and catch the football. Randy, a lot of things don't bother him. I respect him a lot."

Meanwhile, Brady ranks atop practically every major passing category with 3,439 yards on 72.4 percent accuracy for an astounding 39 touchdown passes, just four interceptions and a 127.9 quarterback rating.

The San Mateo, Calif., native's precision, grit and intelligence have spearheaded the powerhouse Patriots' charge to already clinching the AFC East title and threatening the 1972 Miami Dolphins' unmatched perfect season.

Brady threw six touchdowns passes against the Dolphins, piled up 388 yards and five touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys and engineered an epic comeback over the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts.

"He's as efficient, as smooth an operating quarterback as I've seen in a long time," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He's got great fundamental mechanics. He knows exactly what it is he wants to do and when he wants to do it. He's a joy to watch as a coach."

Brady and Moss have only been playing together for 11 games, but their timing and chemistry has been impeccable. They hooked up for four touchdown passes in a recent 56-10 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Only the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles, who fell 31-28 last week to New England after building a lead, have prevented Moss from reaching the end zone this year.

And the Patriots have excelled in the clutch where Brady is the NFL's fourth-quarter passing leader with 74.7 percent accuracy for 800 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception with a 131.6 rating.

Brady, whose Hollywood romances with Bridget Moynahan and Giselle Bundchen have sparked countless tabloid headlines, has become the golden boy of the NFL. He's even challenging the reign of Colts superstar Peyton Manning, who has thrown 20 less touchdowns and eight more interceptions this season.

"You could go on and on all day," Rolle said regarding Brady. "He's cool off the field, he's in control. I used to think Peyton was better than everybody, but Brady's making it tough. "He doesn't get rattled. He knows where to go with the ball and throws it perfectly. He's in the zone right now. The level both Brady and Randy are playing at, I haven't seen an offense this good since the 1999 St. Louis Rams, 'The Greatest Show on Turf.'"

Brady is averaging a touchdown 9.9 percent of the time on 392 attempts. He only throws an interception one percent of the time.

"There's no quarterback I'd rather have," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "He does a lot of things well. He manages the game well, he sees the field. He's accurate. He utilizes different weapons.

"He's a great guy to coach because you can do different things with him and he's able to execute them. He's very open-minded and has a great sense and feel for the game as well as the skill to play it."

A once-unheralded sixth-round draft pick from Michigan who only got his shot to play when Drew Bledsoe got hurt, Brady has led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles, has a 12-2 playoff record and owns two Super Bowl MVP awards to match Hall of Fame passers like Montana, Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr.

Plus, Brady is smart enough to not throw exclusively to Moss. He has completed 81 passes to scrappy wide receiver Wes Welker for 878 yards and seven touchdowns.

Basically, there's no way to constantly overload Moss without Brady gladly exploiting a weakness somewhere else.

"Do you want us to put four on Moss?" linebacker Bart Scott said. "I think Wes Welker has 1,000 yards receiving, too, almost."

Still, Moss is the obvious headliner to the Patriots' attack. His acrobatic, one-handed catches are becoming the stuff of legend in New England.

It's a dramatic career renaissance for a renowned NFL bad boy whose career was languishing with the Oakland Raiders after the Minnesota Vikings traded him.

Billick recalls the vintage Moss of 1998 when Billick was the Vikings' offensive coordinator and Moss was a cocky rookie from Marshall University who put his stamp on pro football immediately with 69 catches, 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"Obviously, I had a huge affection for Randy," Billick said. "We throw the term superstar and unique around too flippantly for my liking. He's as unique a player that's ever been in this game. I had him when he was just a puppy and he was great to be around. You just saw greatness written all over him.

"Then, I tracked him through his trials and tribulations. I'm happy for Randy to have found a place with an organization, with a quarterback like Tom Brady that, hopefully, can allow him to exhibit his talents and stay focused on his talents and remove some of the noise that's followed him throughout the years."

The primary noise surrounding Moss and Brady this season has been applause.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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