After Brandon Tate took a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown on Monday night, ESPN showed the replay by showing Tom Brady and Randy Moss on the sideline.
Brady jumped up and down, cheering Tate downfield.
Moss stood there.
I chalked it up to Moss being Moss. The future Hall of Famer made it clear after his Week One outburst that he was done talking about his contract, that he didn't want to distract the team later on down the road.
Now we know the contract was still very much on his mind (the Boston Herald reported he asked for a trade after Week One), as was the idea that Monday night might be his last game in a Patriots uniform.
The PFW spin
What does this mean for the Pats? The immediate answer is they just lost the player Tom Brady called the "best downfield threat in NFL history." Although Brady has good, young, quick weapons, none of them has the downfield abilities of Moss. Wes Welker and Julian Edelman are slot receivers, and they likely believe with Tate's speed he can become a downfield threat to stretch the field. Rookie third-rounder Taylor Price, a speedster who has been inactive each game this season, will also factor into the mix.
The offense has been incredibly dynamic this season, especially with rookie TE Aaron Hernandez leading the team in receiving yards, but it was still Moss who had two TD catches on bombs chucked by Brady. Teams will eventually try to cut off Brady's dinking and dunking and someone will have to replace Moss.
But as PFW correspondent Ian Rapoport pointed out this morning, the Pats have been preparing for this. Moss had just three catches in Week Three and was targeted once on Monday night. They have been content (and successful) with short- to medium-range passes and pounding the ball on the ground with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The next impact comes in the draft, where the Pats now have eight picks in the first four rounds. The team on the field now is already stacked with rookies and second-year players, and it looks like the organization wants to keep going in that direction. Look at the players who are starting now: fourth-rounder Hernandez, second-round OLB Jermaine Cunningham, second-round ILB Brandon Spikes, first-round CB Devin McCourty — their scouting has been phenomenal and they have received plenty of production already from last year's picks.
But what does it say overall about the "new" Patriots, a team willing to part ways with one of the greatest receivers of all-time? It shows that Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft believe this team is better suited without Moss' skill because it loses his off-the-field drama, and they likely were not going to give him a new contract anyway. It further illustrates an organization that wants to rally around its younger players and get a facelift, while still holding onto Brady.
Moss returns to New England on Halloween and he will likely be looking forward to burning his former teammates downfield. Are the Patriots a better team without Moss? No. Can they still make the playoffs without Moss? Probably, but it surely was not a move you'd expect by a team that expects to make the Super Bowl this year, but by a team that continues to create a new dynasty, and Moss was not a part of that picture. But don't be fooled, this was not a rebuilding move; this team still expects to challenge for the AFC East crown, and it is still good enough to do it without Moss.