Moss Has Chance to Silence Critics

Randy Moss has inadvertently deflected a lot of the criticism for the Vikings on himself for leaving the field early last Sunday. He has a chance to quiet his critics Sunday -- a chance that could weigh heavily on his future with the team and his perception around the NFL.

There are games that define careers. This is one of those games for Randy Moss. His "speak no evil" (or "speak at all") policy with the local media has helped fuel the fire over his most recent non-event to steal national headlines.

His episodes have typically come at the end of a season – the St. Louis water bottle and his New Jersey "41-donut" rant got the most ink. But, when an incident was last followed by a game was in 2001. Moss made the honest comment that he doesn't give full effort on every play. He was vilified by such Hall-of-Fame hopefuls as Merrill Hoge and Sean Salisbury.

His answer? In the next game Moss caught 10 passes for 171 yards and three TDs vs. the Giants. He has his opportunity this time around. Either he puts his stamp on the game Sunday or he doesn't. One hundred percent or not, Moss has the chance to be the difference-maker in the biggest game in the history of the Vikings-Packers rivalry.

Moss has been underestimated and second-guessed before. Sunday is his opportunity to once again shut up his critics. Whether he does it or not is up to him – as it always is.


* During his brief coaching tenure, Mike Tice has become akin to a Moss enabler – helping deflect what he sees as inappropriate shots being taken at his team and his players. But in the last couple of days, he's taken on what appears to the persona of Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci – the tragic clown. On his weekly radio show, he started off by making the "boop-boop-boop" noise of a large truck backing up to describe making the playoffs and Friday carried a sympathetic bouquet of balloons around Winter Park Friday. It's been said that Mussolini carried balloons around right before they hanged him – and subsequently threw rocks and vegetables at him.
* About the only thing more messed up than the current college BCS system (where the "C" is occasionally silent), the NFL passer rating system tops it. Any scale in which 158.3 is perfect shouldn't be used. But, seeing as it is, Daunte Culpepper's 110.9 rating shattered his own personal best (98.0 in 2000) and the team record of 106.0 by Randall Cunningham in 1998. In both those years, the Vikes went to the NFC title game. While it may be as applicable as conspiracy theorists who know that Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy and Kennedy has a secretary named Lincoln, it's something for Vikes fans to cling to.
* Passer Rating II – It's one thing to have a good passer rating, but it's an offensive statistic. Only six quarterbacks had a passer rating of 95.3 or above. Defensively, QBs that played the Packers had a rating of 99.1. QBs that played the Vikes had a rating of 95.5.
* Culpepper finished the regular season second in the team in rushing attempts (88), yards (406) and TDs (2).
* Between the two of them, Culpepper and Brett Favre threw for 69 touchdowns this year.
* Turnovers are the best yardstick of success. Right? Not necessarily. The Vikings are +1 in the giveaway/takeaway numbers. The Packers are minus-14.
* Why are people expecting 60 or more points to be scored Sunday? The Vikings and Packers are the top two offenses in the NFC. The Chiefs finished first, followed the Colts, Packers and Vikings.
* Trivia question – what team led the NFL in rushing this season? * Favre has only been sacked 14 times this year – tied for best in the NFL. Culpepper has been sacked 46 times – 25th in the league.
* The Vikings and Packers have combined for just 17 rushing TDs this year – nine for the Packers and eight for the Vikes. Only three teams – Detroit (7), Washington (6) and Cleveland (6) had less.
* With all the talk about the bad defenses in the NFL, the Vikes aren't the worst-rated defense in the playoffs. Green Bay is rated 25th, the Vikes are 28th, but the Colts are 29th.
* Defense wins championships – or so the saying goes. But, of the top eight offenses in the NFL, seven made the playoffs. Only three of the top eight defenses made the playoffs and of those, both the Jets and Broncos are expected to be gone by the time the Vikings take the field Sunday.
* From the Bizzaro File comes this: Former Vikings coordinators Brian Billick and Tony Dungy got head coaching jobs for their respective expertise. But, this year, Billick had the 31st rated offense and Dungy had the 29th rated defense. * In NFL history, teams have met for a third time in a season with one team winning both previous meetings. Those teams are 10-5 winning the third time. Both NFC games this weekend will add to those figures – for better or worse.
* Trivia answer: The Falcons have the NFL's top rushing offense.
* Speaking of the Falcons, Michael Vick has a lower passer rating than Tim Rattay, Aaron Brooks and Kurt Warner.
* The Packers have allowed more passing touchdowns than any team in the NFL this season.
* The Vikings have only outscored their opponents by 10 points this year (405-395), but both teams playing today have been outscored this year – the Seahawks have been outscored 373-371 and the Rams have an awful 392-319 deficit. In contrast, all the AFC playoff teams have dominated – Patriots (+177), Colts (+171), Chargers (+133), Steelers (+121), Broncos (+77) and Jets (+72).

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