FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The brilliance of Randy Moss has never been questioned; his work ethic has.
After watching Moss against Atlanta on Sunday, two things became clear. Moss is the most physically gifted receiver in the NFL but, quite possibly, he remains one of the laziest.
|Randy Moss doesn't put forth his best effort on Sunday. (AP)|
Moss has been criticized for these things in the past so this isn't breaking news. What is fascinating is that Moss continues to behave in this manner despite being a member of perhaps the most professional and blue collar franchise in the league.
None of the Patriots' professionalism has apparently rubbed off on Moss.
Why the Patriots put up with Moss isn't a mystery. He's a Hall of Fame talent. Yet Moss must privately irritate perfectionists like quarterback Tom Brady.
On the Patriots' opening drive against Atlanta, Moss threw an elbow at cornerback Chris Houston. There was another good block against a linebacker in the middle of the field. That was about the extent of his physicality and hard effort.
The problem for the Patriots is that Moss' lack of effort hurts the offense almost as much as his unbelievable abilities help it. Against the Falcons, defenders Moss was supposed to block, but refused to, went on to make the tackle.
Moss not running his routes hard when the play wasn't going to him clearly tipped off Falcons defenders that he wasn't involved in the play and they acted accordingly.
The Falcons (like the Jets the previous week) covered Moss one-on-one for much of the game. Just a few years ago, teams wouldn't have dared to cover Moss singly. Teams can do it now because they actually have some help from Moss himself.
The Falcons' safeties did something smart: They used Moss' bouts of laziness against him. Atlanta's safeties watched Moss closely. If he jogged off the line of scrimmage they ignored him, knowing the play wasn't going to him.
If they noticed Moss running aggressively, they focused on him, knowing the ball was likely coming his way.
The league knows that Moss is sometimes a dog. Every team, every player. They all know the deal and it's built into their defensive strategies against the Patriots.
One route, on a play not going to Moss, he literally jogged part of it. Also, Moss' blocking tends to be him just trying to stand in front of a defender. There's rarely the extensive physicality you see from other NFL wide receivers.
There was one block attempt that was so bad it was almost comical. Moss jogged off the line of scrimmage on a run play. His attempt at blocking was to touch the left shoulder of defensive back Brian Williams.
Hines Ward, he's not.
I'm not buying that Moss was lumbering because he had a bad back. It's being portrayed by some in the media as if Moss rolled onto the field from a wheelchair. But Moss has been pulling this stuff for years. This is nothing new, and it wasn't because he was hurt.
Every other receiver on the field ran their routes harder, blocked harder and overall worked harder. None had nearly the ability of Moss, either. Thus, there's that Moss dilemma again.
His talent is so dazzling it can overcome a terrible, at times, work ethic.
The Patriots seem content to put up with this tomfoolery because Moss still produces. Bill Belichick praised Moss after the game for making a lot of plays.
But there must be a part of the Patriot genome that says: What a dog.
What an unbelievable dog.