AFC East: Chris Harris
Opponents, pundits and former players have been disparaging in their remarks after Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.
Boston Herald reporter Ian R. Rapoport has found a dissenting voice, a man known as one of the preeminent game film breaker-downers.
Greg Cosell, a 31-year veteran of NFL Films and executive producer of ESPN's "Edge NFL Matchup," watches more film than Gene Shalit and Leonard Maltin combined.
Cosell examined the tape from Sunday and didn't notice anything troublesome about Moss' effort.
"The general answer to your question is, I thought it was no different from Randy Moss than in any other game," Cosell told Rapoport. "In fact, early on, I thought his effort on run blocking was very good. I think you have to see this game in the context of how the Panthers chose to play defense. Before the snap, the Panthers removed Randy Moss from the game. That's why he wasn't targeted, not because he 'shut it down.' That had nothing to do with anything."Cosell explained the Panthers played zone with a safety over Moss to remove him from the game and leaving Wes Welker one-on-one.
In Rapoport's story, Cosell also gives his take on Moss' effort on each of the most disconcerting plays: the fumble, the interception and a key drop. It's highly recommended reading.
In writing this entry, I came across this 2003 New York Times profile on Cosell. The story explains what makes him more of an expert than most players.
"How do I say this without coming off as too arrogant or dismissive?'' Cosell told the New York Times. ''The players are in the loop their whole careers, but then they leave for TV and slowly they stop looking at films and rely on their memories.
''Here, every week, we get the coaches' tapes, the ones the coach and his assistants study. I look at them over and over every week for 'Matchup.' If I need to, I call the coach, too. It is like going to school in pro football every week. And I love pro football.''
"My response would be that's a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game," Belichick said at his Monday news conference.
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss attended Belichick's Q&A session, which included defense of Moss and another shot at Gamble and Harris later.
"I have a lot of respect for Randy," Belichick said. "I think he's one of our best players, and I think if you watch other teams defend him and watch other teams play against him, they think the same way -- other than these two guys from Carolina after they lost another game. I guess they don't think that way. They haven't won a lot of games now."
So the message that will resonate with the younger players in the Patriots' locker room is this:
Bill might be tough on us, but when an outsider wants to make an example of us, he'll have our backs.
Next up for the Patriots: the Buffalo Bills, who won't be sending Gamble or Harris a Christmas card this year.