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Welker and Moss: The tale of the tape

Posted by Bill Koch on December 14, 2009

Bill Belichick must be wishing that he could take Wes Welker’s heart and transplant it into Randy Moss’ suddenly stale body.

New England’s 20-10 win over Carolina on Sunday made the difference between the two Patriots’ wide receivers crystal clear. Welker played like a man possessed as usual and Moss looked disinterested, accused of “shutting it down” by some of the Panthers’ defensive backs. Welker absorbed punishing hits and went over the middle into traffic to total his 10 catches for 105 yards, while Moss dropped two passes and fumbled away his lone reception in one of his worst days in Foxboro.

But is it really that simple? There’s a lot of psychology at work here behind the scenes – Moss a man born to be hated, Welker a man dying to be loved. The respective chips on their talented shoulders have shaped the players they are and the players we currently see. It’s not as easy as saying Welker cares and Moss does not.

Moss has always been the prodigy, a man capable of doing things physically that only a handful of others on this planet have ever done. He’s a 6-foot-4 freak who can cover 40 yards in 4.2 seconds, grab footballs out of the sky with one hand and make All-Pro defensive backs look like they wandered in from a Pop Warner game. We can’t relate to him in that sense and never will be able to. We see a man with so much potential and raw talent that we can’t comprehend how he can’t dominate every game in which he plays. We take Moss’ skills to a place in our own minds and think, “Man, if I could do that, there’s NO WAY I could be stopped.” We forget that Moss is human, that he has good days and bad days, that he might not feel so loved after being sent home on Wednesday for showing up late to a team meeting. That doesn’t excuse his lack of effort if he did indeed go into the tank on Sunday, but it at least provides some reason for it.

Welker is the ultimate underdog, the guy who’s been told he’s “too …” something for his entire football career. He’s too small. He’s too short. He’s too slow. He’s used all of those perceived problems to fuel his rise into one of the NFL’s elite receivers, a guy who had to fight his way onto Miami’s roster in the first place by doing everything but washing the locker room towels. He was even kicking extra points against the Patriots a few years ago, putting forth an effort just to try to stay in the league. Welker’s will to go above and beyond, to take a beating against players who are bigger, stronger and faster, is something that we can relate to. We can almost picture ourselves in his 5-foot-9 shoes, chugging down the center of the field and willing to spill blood for the Patriots’ latest attempt at a late-season revival.

Moss is taking heat right now and Welker is getting the love. It almost seems like the way it should be. But is it?


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