OWINGS MILLS — Towering over the competition and closing in on personal supremacy in the record books, New England Patriots imposing star wide receiver Randy Moss is regarded as a matchup nightmare by most NFL cornerbacks.
Tall, strong, instinctive and sure-handed, Moss has caught more touchdown passes and racked up more yardage than any receiver since entering the league over a decade ago.
Now, it’s the Baltimore Ravens’ arduous task to contain the explosive 6-foot-4, 210-pounder during Sunday’s pivotal AFC matchup at Gillette Stadium.
"He’s a great player," Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "He’s gotten it done in a thousand different ways. Over the years in New England, they’ve found different ways to get him involved. We’re quite aware of what Randy is capable of.
"He’s a Hall of Fame receiver. He’s different than everybody in the league. People have tried to duplicate what he does, but he’s a special player. We’re looking forward to this game."
Over the past 11 seasons, Moss has averaged one touchdown out of every 6.44 receptions for the top percentage among any receiver in NFL history.
His 135 touchdowns on 869 receptions surpassed the mark of Lance Alworth.
Since arriving in New England in 2007 after an unhappy tenure with the Oakland Raiders, Moss has fit perfectly into the Patriots’ scheme producing 193 receptions, 2,782 yards and 34 touchdowns.
His career receiving yardage mark of 13,482 yards outranks Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt and Tony Gonzalez.
For the Ravens’ relatively diminutive cornerbacks, the challenge is matching Moss’ physical prowess.
He’s virtually always open simply by virtue of his superior size and athleticism. And his leaping ability is unparalleled.
When his mind is fully engaged in the game, Moss is practically unstoppable.
What separates Moss from other NFL receivers is his ability to elevate over shorter cornerbacks to get the football.
“I think it’s his jump ball ability,” Washington said. “Tom Brady just throws the ball high and Randy goes and gets it.”
How do you counteract a dangerous weapon like that?
“You gotta do something,” Washington said. “Get his arm, do something. He plays bigger than what he is. He’s like Plaxico Burress that way.”
Moss is arguably among the top two or three receivers in NFL history, and his numbers back up that statement.
With 15 more touchdown catches, he’ll become the second player in NFL history to reach 150 touchdown receptions to rank behind Jerry Rice’s total of 197 overall
He’s 31 receptions shy of becoming the 10th player in league history to surpass 900 receptions.
And he needs just 518 more yards to become the seventh player to ever reach 14,000 yards. He’s currently in ninth place overall in that category.
“The same old thing with Moss,” free safety Ed Reed said. “He can get down the field, he’s running great routes, you even see him coaching on tape when guys are off the ball and not in the position they’re supposed to be.
“He’s a smart guy. So, you definitely need to do some things to discourage those guys as much as possible.”
This season, Moss has been used as more of a possession receiver because of a knee injury to consummate slot receiver Wes Welker. And Moss has caught 26 passes for 281 yards with no touchdowns.
He caught 10 passes during last week’s win over the Atlanta Falcons and tied a career-high with a dozen receptions in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
“I think Randy does everything pretty well,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said during a Wednesday conference call. “There are really not any limitations with Randy. He’s a good blocker, he’s smart, he’s versatile, he’s played all the outside positions and the inside positions as well in the slot, in different receiver groups. He can run after the catch, he can run the short and intermediate routes, and he can certainly run the deeper routes.
"He does a good job against man coverage. He does a good job against zone coverage. He’s a big target, he’s got good hands, good ball skills, tracks the ball well down the field. So, I don’t think there is really any route you call with Randy where you say, ‘Well, we don’t want to run that route with him.’”
While the Ravens’ defense had four interceptions in exploiting suspect Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson during a 34-3 win last Sunday, they allowed 436 yards against the San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers featured several large wide receivers, including 6-5, 230-pound Vincent Jackson.
“There’s only one Moss,” Washington said. “San Diego had like three guys that we’re 6-foot-6. I think we have a good game plan to guard Moss.”
Criticized and scrutinized after the breakdowns in San Diego, the Ravens’ secondary is aware that this encounter will be viewed as more of true test of their capabilities than how they dominated a suspect Cleveland offense.
“We want them all to be big statement games,” Washington said. “We want to put our foot on everyone’s throats. We’re going to try to improve every week.
“We feel like we took a great step against Cleveland. Playing against New England and their passing attack should be a nice challenge for us.”
One part of the Ravens’ game plan has been deriving a scouting report by quizzing Washington about his tendencies.
Washington was Moss’ teammate in Oakland and routinely checked him each day, becoming cognizant of the All-Pro receiver’s work habits, strengths and weaknesses.
“Yeah, I know a lot about Randy,” Washington said. “A lot of the guys have been picking my brain about what I know. I covered him every day in practice, so I have a lot of information.”
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.