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Trailing the New York Football Giants 28-23 with just over 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter Saturday night, Tom Brady attempted to do what he had done so many times this perfect season.
He launched an airtight spiral toward wide-open Randy Moss, his favorite target who had broken away from his inferior opponents in the Giants secondary. But as God-like as Brady is, his arm is human, and the pass came up short.
Moss nearly made a shoestring catch — he has, after all, caught balls thrown between two defenders and directly at defenders this season — but couldn't hold on. The ball fell to the ground.
What happened next is why New England is a summit above the rest of the NFL. With the Patriots facing 3rd-and-10 from their own 35-yard line, Moss ran the same 9 route to the same spot. After catching his breath, there he was racing by himself down the right sideline. And after refueling his right arm, there was Brady releasing another low-arcing spiral in Moss' direction.
And this time, No. 81 didn't have to break stride. The ball hit him in the chest, and he was gone.
The Patriots regained the lead. You know the story from there. A 16-0 unblemished record. A rather loquacious Bill Belichick at the postgame podium.
But back to the juiciest minute of the night. Actually, the touchdown wasn't even designed for Moss. Brady's main option was diminutive receiver Wes Welker, who was running a short route. But when the defenders bit on Welker's cut, there was Moss, running untouched down the sideline. And Brady had no qualms about finding his tallest target one more time, about throwing one more 65-yard pass.
And Moss didn't complain about running approximately 200 yards in the course of a minute or two. (Yes, he could be a track star if he wasn't so good at catching footballs.)
Seriously, how many teams will run their premier receiver 65 yards down the sideline on consecutive plays? How many teams will trust their quarterback to throw back-to-back deep balls, especially after the first one came up well short?
That's one of many reasons New England stands alone as the lone NFL team to go 16-0. Yes, it helps having the career leaders for touchdown passes and TD catches in a season. But that doesn't take away from the genius behind having Moss run an identical route.
The thing about the Patriots, is they've always made the right calls. It's never mattered if they throw the ball on 27 consecutive plays or run it 10 straight times. They do what Belichick, Brady and Co. think will work at the time.
So forget running a draw to mix up the defense. Or looking for the tight end over the middle. If Moss could beat the secondary once, he could do it again, right?
"I wish I could have made a better throw," Brady said about the first pass, which was designed for Moss.
But, I'm sure, Brady's not fretting over the bad throw a day later.
Because these Patriots, although not perfect every play, are rather quick to correct their mistakes — even in the course of a New York Minute.
And that's just another reason they stand an impeccable 16-0, just three wins away from the penultimate zenith of football success.