A team that set an NFL record for points during the regular season couldn't find its biggest scoring weapon all postseason.
Randy Moss, who set an NFL record with 23 touchdown catches, did better than he had during the AFC playoffs, when he caught only two passes in two games. Against the Giants in the Super Bowl on Sunday, he had five receptions and caught the go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter.
Yet Moss was contained for most of the game. And Tom Brady, working behind a line with three Pro Bowlers, rarely had time to find him.
The AFC champions' heralded offensive line allowed a season-high five sacks, and its inability to protect Brady was a major reason the Patriots' quest for perfection ended with a 17-14 loss.
"I don't know if he did get rattled," Antonio Pierce said, "but he did have grass stains."
Going in, Brady had been sacked a career-low 24 times playing behind a line that produced Pro Bowlers in center Dan Koppen, left tackle Matt Light and left guard Logan Mankins. Throw in right guard Stephen Neal and right tackle Nick Kaczur, and Brady played most of his record-breaking season not having to worry much about getting hit.
That all changed in the face of the Giants' all-out, pressure-packed swarming defensive attack, and in the worst possible setting. It was the first time Brady had been sacked as many as five times since the Jets did it Sept.21, 2003.
Brady simply had no time to find Moss, Wes Welker and his other targets on a regular basis against the Giants. He might have known he was in for a long day when he was sacked by former USF star Kawika Mitchell and Justin Tuck on consecutive plays midway through the second quarter.
It didn't help that Neal left after Tuck's sack and didn't return.
As the Patriots faced a do-or-die scenario on their final drive, Brady was sacked for the final time when Jay Alford pulled him down at the New England 16. With 19 seconds left, Brady was left with nothing to do but try two desperation heaves to Moss to no avail.
"They have some great pressure schemes, and obviously they have some great pass rushers," Brady said. "Once we got the idea, though, I thought we handled it."
The offensive line not only was unable to shield Brady but could not get any push with the running game. Laurence Maroney was held to 36 yards on 14 carries and the Patriots scraped together only 45 rushing yards as a team.
During the regular season, Randy Moss led the Patriots with 1,493 receiving yards (on 98 catches) and an NFL-record 23 TD catches. Then in the postseason ... well, look at the numbers.
Date Opponent Rec. Yds. TDs
1/12 Jaguars 1 14 0
1/20 Chargers 1 18 0
2/3 Giants 5 62 1
Total 7 94 1