Sidelined for a month in training camp by a nagging hamstring injury, and having logged zero snaps in his first preseason with the Patriots, wide receiver Randy Moss approached Sunday's opener with a nervousness he hasn't often confronted in his mostly electrifying NFL tenure.
But after seeing Moss and the Pats dismantle the Jets, 38-14, it's the rest of the NFL that figures to experience some queasiness this year when confronted by the Patriots' newest offensive weapon.
"When I came [to the Patriots]," Moss said of the April trade that rescued him from his humbling two-year experience in Oakland, "I said that I wanted to showcase my talents again. And I think, today, that I did that."
The Jets tried to use single coverage on Moss for most of Sunday's opener. It didn't work. For those who questioned how much his skills eroded during his Oakland exile, 30-year-old Moss turned back the clock, and turned the overmatched New York secondary inside out. Quarterback Tom Brady threw nine passes to Moss (who participated in 38 of New England's 65 offensive snaps), and the wide receiver caught them all, for 183 yards and one touchdown. All but one of his catches went for double-digit yardage, and five were for 18 or more yards.
On Moss' touchdown grab, a 51-yard deep crossing route in the third quarter, he got a quick release against Jets rookie cornerback Darrelle Revis. He then beat a trio of defenders -- cornerback David Barrett, who was his foil much of the day; inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma; and strong safety Erik Coleman -- to Brady's adroitly lobbed pass.
The touchdown snapped a seven-game scoreless streak for Moss, the longest such stretch of his career. And it should quell talk -- including rumors that the Patriots were so disenchanted with the injured Moss this summer that they considered releasing him -- that his career is in a perilous spiral. The 183 receiving yards represented the third-most in New England franchise history and are the fourth-most of Moss' career.
Sure, it's only one game, and not every outing will produce such scintillating results. But for those who wondered how Brady would fare with an improved arsenal, Moss and his fellow wide receivers provided a scenario best described by Vilma.
"Frightening," Vilma said. "I mean, it's scary."
Brady completed 22 of 28 passes for 297 yards, with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. His passer efficiency rating, 146.6, was the third-best of his career. Sixteen of his completions, for 263 yards and two scores, went to wideouts acquired by the Patriots in the offseason via trade or free agency.
On most occasions, Brady, who did not suffer a sack, had ample time to survey the entire field and deliberately go through every one of his progressions.
"There are a lot of pretty good [receivers] out there to pick from," Brady said. "Any one of them, I feel like, could go out and have a big day."
In his New England debut, Moss' day was absolutely huge.
Inexplicably, the New York coaches opted to play more single coverage against Moss than the Patriots expected. In addition, a Jets defense that blitzed Brady on 28 of 36 "dropbacks" in the wild-card playoff matchup between the teams last season didn't come with anything approximating that pressure philosophy Sunday. The result was a secondary that too often, particularly for overmatched Barrett, was hung out to dry.