The Jets secondary's long day of covering new New England wide receiver Randy Moss developed like a Polaroid into the image of No. 81 running away from three white-uniformed defenders on the Meadowlands turf midway throughout the third quarter Sunday.
"When the ball was in the air, I knew," said safety Erik Coleman, one of the three Jets. "We were running vertically and [Tom Brady] threw the ball away from me. It was just a great throw and catch. It showed the speed of Randy Moss — he's a very fast receiver."
Moss showed it on that play as he ran across the field with Coleman, Jonathan Vilma and David Barrett in pursuit. Brady, with a lot of time, loaded up and launched the ball for the left goal line pylon in the west end zone. Moss caught up to it and eased across the corner of the end zone for the TD that made it 28-7 with 7:01 left in the corner.
He caught nine passes in all from Brady in the Patriots' 38-14 season-opening triumph over the Jets. They went for 183 yards and that 51-yard score. Eight of the nine gained first downs.
"He's a pro," Coleman said. "He's one of the best. He definitely showed that today."
Moss also showed he doesn't need a whole lot of training camp, preseason games or timing up with Brady. The former Minnesota and Oakland wideout who came to the Patriots in a draft-day trade with the Raiders, suffered a hamstring pull early in camp, had no preseason receptions and was still a mystery appearance on Thursday's Patriots injury report.
"It seemed like he did a good job of rehab," Coleman said.
"I've been in the training room for so long and the training staff has done a fantastic job of getting me back and rehabbing me to get me on the field knowing what I had to do for at least two weeks," Moss said. "It just felt good. I'm happy but at the same time we know it's just the first game of the season and we have a lot more to play.
Moss also had to be happy that playing for an upper-echelon program has jumpstarted his career, although he said he didn't think he had anything to prove to his critics.
"I've been in the league long enough that catching balls and running after the catch comes natural," he said. "The biggest thing I wanted to focus on this week was making sure my mind was fresh and tough enough to play because I hadn't played this season. I didn't want to let my team down or put them back, so I just wanted to go out, see what I had and give them my all."
One thing many Jets observers were concerned about was if the good Randy showed up for Green & White's season opener at home. First-round rookie Darrelle Revis made the start at left corner for the gimpy Andre Dyson, but it seemed Brady, Moss and the Patriots were more than happy to work on right corner David Barrett, who gave up some of those receptions in part because of Moss' six-inch height advantage.
"I am not surprised at all.," Barrett said of Moss' revival. "He's going to come out and do his job. Once you are on that field, everything else has to go down the drain. I'm not surprised at all."
The last time a Jets opponent had 183 receiving yards — in fact, an identical 9-183-1 TD line to Moss' earlier today — it was Jerry Rice in the loss at Oakland in the 2001 playoffs. The last opponent with more receiving yardage was Rice's Raiders teammate, Tim Brown, with 190 on 11 catches, also at Oakland, in 1999.
If Moss is still in his prime, the Jets may have to worry about him in December when they face him and the Pats again, in Week 15 in Foxboro. But you can be sure all opposing offenses beginning with the Ravens on Sunday will attempt to exploit the pass defense in similar fashion until the Jets show they can stop them.
"You have to give them credit," Barrett said of the Patriots. "They made plays and we just have to go in there and correct the things we did wrong and get better next week."