Super Bowl preview: Moss is quite the catch

Douglas Flynn

Funny what a difference a year can make, especially when that year is spent playing for Bill Belichick and catching passes from Tom Brady.

A rejuvenated and rededicated Moss rewrote the record books with Brady this year, breaking Jerry Rice’s mark for touchdown catches in a season with 23 to go along with 98 receptions for 1,493 yards.

“I know what he’s been able to accomplish, and you know, he’s the best receiver in the league, so that speaks for itself,” said Brady. “And it makes it easy as a quarterback when you just throw the ball up in the air and he goes up and catches it.”

The “Original 81” down in Dallas might beg to differ, but there’s really no question that Moss is once again the best receiver in the business. But has this historical season elevated Moss to the top of the pecking order in NFL history?

Not quite, but he’s back in the discussion, and a few more years like this one could give him the final word.

As it stands, he’s already surpassed probably every receiver but Rice, and even knocked him down a peg in the record books for the single-season TD mark. Not that setting records was what Moss prized most about this season.

“I don’t really think that me breaking Jerry Rice’s record was special,” Moss said after the record-setting catch in the regular-season finale against the Giants. “I think shutting you guys up was really what made it special. All the negativity and all my critics, I think this really is a good feeling to be able to come in and have a good season like this, to have confidence in myself that I can still get it done.”

Moss ranks fourth all-time in career receiving TDs with 124 in 10 seasons, trailing just Rice (197 in 20 seasons), former Vikings teammate Cris Carter (130 in 16 seasons) and Terrell Owens (129 in 12 seasons). He’s first all-time in receptions per touchdowns, scoring once every 6.24 catches and third in receiving yards per game (79.2).

Moss’ big year reversed a decline suffered in two seasons in Oakland, but was hardly unprecedented. He now owns three of the top six TD seasons for a receiver in NFL history, having scored 17 times as a rookie in 1998 and again in 2003. He was the best wideout in the league in those years in Minnesota, and this season was simply a matter of reasserting his dominance.

“He made a lot of big catches, a lot of big plays,” said Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, recalling Moss’ days as a Viking when Dungy paced the Tampa Bay sidelines trying to come up with ways to stop him twice a year in the NFC Central Division. “He was a phenomenal force at that time.”

Moss was the one frustrated in Oakland, but that all changed for the low, low price of the fourth-round draft pick that brought him to New England this offseason.

“I’m very blessed and fortunate to be in this position to be able to go out and do what I love to do, and that’s play football,” said Moss. “There’s certain things in life that you don’t want to pass up, and this was an opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up – becoming a New England Patriot and playing some real heads-up, championship-caliber football.”