Wearing his blue and white No. 81 jersey, Randy Moss rewrote the NFL record books with Tom Brady from 2007-2010. On Sunday, Moss will return to Foxboro, Mass., wearing No. 84 in the white and red threads of the 49ers, trying to help San Francisco secure its second straight playoff berth.
Since Moss left New England, Brady and company have maintained their status as one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. The Patriots enter Sunday’s contest averaging 36.3 points per game, a shade off the NFL-record pace they set in 2007, when Moss hauled in 23 touchdown catches to help the Patriots score 36.8 points per contest.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought game coming from the offensive side because of their ability to put points up,” Moss said. “Hopefully we can complement our defense.”
Moss’ resume was already impressive by the time he latched on with New England, but working with Brady and coach Bill Belichick helped the future Hall of Famer achieve new heights. From watching recent tape this week, Belichick said Moss still looks like a dangerous threat, while adding Moss is the “greatest deep-ball receiver that’s ever played.”
“He’s an explosive, dynamic player that’s probably the smartest receiver I’ve ever coached,” Belichick said in a conference call Wednesday. “I know he absolutely knows what he’s doing, knows what the defense is doing and knows how to attack the defense.”
Likewise, Moss had praise for Belichick for helping his development as a football player.
“Before I got to New England, I thought I knew a lot about football,” Moss said. “But I think he taught me a lot from A to Z and I still carry it to this day. … The complements are good and I respect coach Belichick and that organization still to this day.”
Moss is fully focused on his role with the 49ers now, one which increased last week in the absence of receiver Mario Manningham.
The veteran leadership of Moss has been well-documented throughout the season, but he’s taken on an even bigger role in recent weeks with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is 3-1 as a starter since taking over for Alex Smith. Moss has been seen and heard talking to Kaepernick on the sidelines during games, giving words of encouragement to the young, talented signal-caller.
“Kap’s been able to come in and lead us as a whole unit,” Moss said. “Any time a guy can come in and lead like that – and I don’t mean verbally, I think leading by example is what we as football players look for in a player, especially a quarterback. I really just compliment his leadership and going out there and leading our offense up and down the field.”
Despite their past history, don’t expect Moss or Belichick to go easy on one another Sunday night. The Patriots (10-3), who have lost their three contests by a combined four points this season, have already wrapped up the AFC East but both teams are jockeying for playoff byes in January.
True to Jim Harbaugh’s message of trying to get one mile an hour faster every day, cornerback Carlos Rogers said the 49ers might try to pick Moss’ brain for insight into the New England offense. Listening to Moss, he’s not sure how much he could ultimately help.
“Everybody knows Bill Belichick is a so-called genius and he changes it up every week,” Moss said. “There’s not really much input I can give for the week. I just said, ‘Have your head on a swivel and be ready for anything.’”
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