The Washington Redskins knew that Santana Moss would be their top wideout when they traded Laveranues Coles to the New York Jets for him in the offseason -- and Moss has exceeded their expectations. But the team's one-sided passing attack is causing frustration among the ranks.
David Patten, signed as a free agent from New England to bolster the downfield passing game as well, expressed his feelings yesterday over his largely silent role in the team's first seven games.
"It's been extremely frustrating, extremely frustrating, especially when you know you've been brought in to make plays and make things happen," said Patten, who left the defending champion for Washington. "It's not about being selfish, but you want to contribute to what they expect out of you. So from that standpoint, yeah, you want more balls; yeah, you want more production, but I'm not in control of that.
"I don't control where the quarterback goes with the ball or when my play is called, so the bottom line is being positive and focusing on the team aspect, and I've been conditioned over my nine years to do that. But it's extremely frustrating; I'd be lying if I told you anything otherwise. But it's just the way it is. It's the nature of the beast, and that's what shows a great team: when you have guys who can acknowledge that, accept that, and deal with what they are dealt with."
While Moss's immediate emergence has opened up plays for the running game at times, the Redskins have not found receivers to complement him, and the New York Giants prospered from that one-dimensional passing game in a 36-0 victory Sunday. Moss's run of three straight 100-yard games and six straight games of 85 yards or more came to a halt -- he finished with four catches for 34 yards -- and with dropped passes plaguing the team, no other Redskins player managed even that many catches or receiving yards.
Coach Joe Gibbs said he believes the Redskins have ample playmakers among the wide receivers, although Taylor Jacobs and James Thrash have been silent as well. "I think we've got other people. You're right. If it's just Santana, then we've got a problem because people can take one guy away," Gibbs said. "But I think we've got other receivers there, and hopefully they'll step up and do their part now."
With Moss racking up yardage each week, defenses have keyed on him, and the Giants were able to negate the deep threat despite taking the NFL's 31st-ranked defense into the game. Moss had caught a pass of at least 30 yards in every game, and had caught 10 such passes overall, but the Giants focused their zone defense on his side of the field and no one else could capitalize on the coverage.
"It's been that way the last couple of weeks," Patten said. "If you have any type of coaching in you, and the ability to evaluate another team and find out what their strengths are, you see that. In New England, the one thing [Coach Bill] Belichick was going to do, the key guy, the star guys, they're not going to beat you. Somebody else is going to beat you. That's the way this league is: We're not going to let guys beat us that we know can go out there and make it happen.
"So when you have all that attention focused on one guy, then the other guys have to step up around him and a day like [Sunday] when they're doing that [to Moss], for me to come away with one catch is extremely frustrating. But a lot of things are out of my control. This is something we have to capitalize off of as an offense. If they're going to come in and take Santana away, then everybody around him has got to step up and get things done."
Moss said he could not pinpoint precisely why the Giants were successful against him. "It was just a lot of zones they played throughout the game," he said. "Whatever they did, they did it pretty well." But they avoided man coverage and had a deep safety often assigned to Moss. The double coverage and depth of the safeties should have helped the running and intermediate passing games, but did not.
"The scheme they had on defense for us was something quite a few people up here can play," Gibbs said.
The Giants also pressured quarterback Mark Brunell for much of the afternoon, disrupting the timing of the passing game, leading to sacks and throwaways.
"Some things weren't there [downfield] that we thought were going to be there," right tackle Jon Jansen said, "and we had to eat it a couple of times."
"They had a good game plan, and they executed it," Brunell said. "It was obvious that they had done their homework."
Moss has more than twice as many receiving yards as anyone else on the team (H-back Chris Cooley has 318 to Moss's 777) and no other receiver has had an 85-yard game (Cooley's high is 82 yards, Patten's 63). Thrash was involved more early in the season while Jacobs, who has the acceleration to be a deep threat, has two catches.
"We can't really control that," Jacobs said. "We have to do what coach says to do. We just need to capitalize on all of our opportunities, but that's something that's really not in our hands."
The coaches, naturally, want to exploit all of Moss's talents. He can catch 70-yard bombs and turn screen passes into 80-yard touchdowns, and he and Brunell have chemistry. They'll face an Eagles defense that has allowed 20 passes of 20 yards or more in the last five games. But it may take more than Moss alone to win another big NFC East game.
"I think it's going to be a defining moment for this team, for this season," Brunell said. "If we can get this one against a very good football team, then we'll be back on track. And if not, then we're going to be in a hole and we'll have to fight our way out of it."