FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots don’t need Randy Moss –- their offense got better without him this season, a testament to the negatives he can bring to the table.
They do need someone like him though, a true deep threat, preferably with size, who can make both difficult catches and game-breaking plays.
Perhaps the most pertinent question for the Patriots in the wake of their stunning 28-21 playoff loss Sunday to the New York Jets shouldn’t be how did their powerhouse offense get stopped, but how did it get started in the first place?
How did it average over 37 points a game over the last eight weeks of season and run up the seventh highest scoring total for a season in NFL history when their receiving corps features 5-8 Deion Branch, 5-7 Wes Welker, three tight ends (including two rookies) and 5-7 utility back Danny Woodhead?
The most applicable answer is Tom Brady, of course.
It was an interesting story that the Patriots could survive the loss of Moss, one of the most gifted receivers ever, and thrive. It was nice that they could do it with these undersized, oft-doubted players. They are good players, no question.
Against the Jets though they needed a superstar and there wasn’t one to be found. The Jets attacked the smallish Pats and the wheels came off.
“The whole point ... was to make sure that we got out hands on them (and were) physical with the guys,” said Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. “When we play our game on the outside, it makes things very difficult for the quarterback with the timing routes and the things that he does.”
Where the Jets got big-time TD receptions from Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, Brady rarely threw deep and was forced to check down on most throws, even during a time draining fourth quarter drive. Catchable balls were dropped by Branch, Welker and tight end Alge Crumpler (in the end zone).
On Sunday, New England just didn’t have the weapons.
In addition to various options through free agency or a trade, New England owns two first-round (17 and 28), two second-round and two third-round picks, giving it plenty of opportunity to draft a play maker. It can wait for a player to fall to their slot, or package and even move up to highly regarded players such as A.J. Green of Georgia and Julio Jones of Alabama.
It’s stockpiled picks to make a major push this off-season. It needs to use some of those assets on a go-to outside receiver that Brady can lean on for the rest of his career.
Brady was brilliant during the regular season despite lacking that great talent to work with. Moss brought negatives to the table (hence his departure) but his ability to take the top off a defense was unquestioned. While a vertical attack using promising young tight ends worked during the regular season, it all came apart on an elite defense like the Jets.
In some ways, the 14-2 record was a bit of a mirage, New England arriving a bit ahead of schedule. The Patriots played smart, effective and efficient football. That’s to be commended.
At some point though, you need a stud that can go make plays.
Welker and Woodhead and the others are terrific players. Game breakers they aren’t.
It’s time for New England to go get one, adding the final piece to an already impressive offense.