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Chad Pemberton: Moss just might back up boasts on Super Sunday

Feb. 01, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

At some point during the Super Bowl someone is going to make a play, or a series of plays, that greatly influences the outcome, and if you're basing the probability of who that player might be on the last two and a half years of on-field performance the odds of that player being Randy Moss realistically lie somewhere between remote and totally unlikely.

Why then can I not stop thinking that Moss will somehow summon something from the recesses of his seemingly limitless talent and make a play that is so entirely fascinating, so utterly unique, so magnificently Moss-like that the only way to describe it would be to say: "Well, that's just Randy being Randy."

Randy being Randy. That slightly backhanded phrase has been somewhat of a shorthand on how to talk about Moss's career. And it's been used -- even if it was merely implied -- a lot this week as writers made a field day out of a media event that could rightfully be described as a circus. Moss spoke candidly, as he has so many times throughout his life, and his words barely made it through the air before tweets were cast and headlines were written.

I assume you've seen some of the headlines. About Moss not liking or understanding his role as a decoy. The book he's supposedly going to write when he's finally finished playing. His proclamation that he's the greatest receiver to ever play, which was met with an unreasonable amount of eye-rolling.

Moss ranks third in NFL career receiving yards (15,292), second in receiving touchdowns (156) and ninth in receptions (982).

Tell me if I'm way off base here, but given those career numbers, isn't it totally rational and logical for Moss to proclaim that he's the best receiver to ever play when prodded with that uncomfortable question? And let's not kid ourselves -- modesty wouldn't suit Moss well anyway.

I've thought a lot about Moss's first (and only) Super Bowl appearance in 2007 when he played for the Patriots. In retrospect, that game, that season, kind of feels like a referendum on Moss's career. There was a chance for it to be unquestionably legendary, and instead it turned out to be merely great and a little flawed. If there ever was a play that encapsulated Moss's career, it was on third-and-20 on the final drive of that game. The New York Giants knew the ball was heading Moss's way, which is why they lined a defensive back 12 yards off and a safety playing help over the top.

The ball was snapped and Moss took off in full stride, those long legs of his gliding over yard markers three at a time, and because it always seemed like he could do this whenever he wanted, he of course outran the first defender and then the second one. Tom Brady heaved the ball a distance that still looks like the longest pass I've ever seen. It immediately felt like an overthrown pass. But there was Moss, per usual, gaining ground on a torpedo.

You know what happens. The pass was tipped at the very last second, changing the downward trajectory of the ball and fell incomplete. I can't think of a more memorable incompletion.

For reasons that defy logic and reason, I can't quite get over my fascination that it might be different for Moss Sunday. That it could turn out differently. How much is left in those gangly legs of his? And in those hands that have pulled in literally hundreds of almost uncatchable throws? On Sunday my eyes will gravitate toward Moss more than anyone else on the field as I watch the answers to these questions unfold in real time and I'll be captivated no matter what I see because never before has so much seemed possible with so little reason to think so.

Chad Pemberton is a Marshall University graduate who follows the NFL and is writing about it for The Herald-Dispatch. Email him at pemberton@herald-dispatch.com.

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