Jerry Rice praises Randy Moss in pursuit of record Print
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Thursday, 13 December 2007 14:06
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 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Jerry Rice plans to congratulate Randy Moss if the Patriots receiver breaks Rice's record of 22 touchdown catches in a season. He'd feel better if Moss didn't have extra time to do it.
Rice set the record with the San Francisco 49ers in just 12 games in 1987 when a players' strike shortened the season. Moss already has played 13 games for unbeaten New England and has 19 touchdowns receptions.
With three games still to play, will he break the record? Probably.
Will Randy's record be as impressive as Rice's? Probably not.
``The only thing that bothers me a little bit is that I did it during the strike year,'' Rice said. ``It was 12 games for me. If he had done it in 12 games, I wouldn't have a problem with it at all. But I'm still going to congratulate him and do all of that.
``But I'm surprised the league is taking it upon themselves to give him 16 games to do it.''
Moss can't do anything about that. All he can do is leap high - higher than the shorter Rice did - and make acrobatic catches. Sometimes he twists in mid-air to grab the ball. Other times he needs just one massive hand to snatch it away from a defender.
One thing, though, rarely changes: When the 6-foot-4 Moss jumps in the end zone against a smaller cornerback, chances are he'll come down with the ball.
``He's having a phenomenal year,'' Rice said in a telephone interview. ``With Randy Moss, my God, you've got everything. You've got speed. You've got jumping ability. You've got size.''
Moss has a touchdown catch in 11 of the Patriots' 13 games and faces the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins at home before finishing the regular season at the New York Giants.
Rice had at least one scoring reception in all 12 of his regular-season games in 1987. In his 11th game, he broke the record of 18 set by Mark Clayton of Miami in 1984 when he caught two scoring passes to reach 20. He even ran for a score that game, a 35-7 win over Atlanta, and ended the year with 23 touchdowns.
Rice caught only 65 passes that year, meaning more than one-third went for touchdowns. Moss already has 82 receptions.
Moss is a much better player than he was in Oakland last season, when he caught just 42 passes for three touchdowns in 13 games.
``It's good to see him go to New England,'' Rice said. ``He seems to be just enjoying this and a totally team player, because in Oakland he completely just gave up. You could tell by his body language that he was not happy being in Oakland and for him to go to New England, he's having a ball.''
Like Moss and Tom Brady, Rice was part of an outstanding combination in 1987; two actually. Both Joe Montana and Steve Young played quarterback that year and Young threw the record-breaking pass.
``You've got to have that chemistry, man,'' Rice said, ``and I had it with Montana. And then after Montana left I had to develop that with Steve Young and it's all about practice.
``It's like poetry in motion, because things are happening out there and it's happening at a very fast pace and you just react to it.''
That's what Moss did when he made perhaps his most spectacular catch of the season, a one-handed, leaping grab over the middle for a 17-yard gain in a 24-20 comeback win at Indianapolis that made the Patriots 9-0.
That, Rice said, was the best catch he's seen Moss make this year. Could he have made it?
``I would have certainly tried,'' Rice said. ``He has an ability that I don't think anyone else can match.''
With two touchdown catches in last Sunday's 34-13 win over Pittsburgh, Moss moved into second place ahead of Clayton and Sterling Sharpe, who had 18 scoring catches in 1994 with Green Bay. Moss also had two seasons with 17 touchdown catches with Minnesota, in 1998 for an NFL rookie record, and 2003.
Rice set the career record of 197 in 20 seasons. Moss, in his 10th year, has 120, fifth in NFL history behind Rice, Cris Carter Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison.
But it's not too late in his career for Moss to try something new with the Patriots - shake the tag of being reluctant to go over the middle and take a hard hit.
``They're running him on underneath routes and doing everything and he's showing a side of him that he hasn't shown before,'' Rice said. ``Randy was never the type to go across the middle and now he's doing that and he's making catches, and he's also doing his thing going deep. He's just a gifted receiver.''
Patriots linebacker Junior Seau played against and is good friends with Rice. He sees similarities between the two receiving greats.
``You're not going to find two more competitive guys on the football field,'' Seau said. ``Randy has worked so hard to get to where he is right now and he's reaping the fruits of his labors.''
Another similarity: both were draft day steals.
Moss wasn't taken until the 21st pick, by Minnesota. Many teams were concerned about his off-field troubles and wondered about his attitude.
Rice went 16th to San Francisco with a choice the Patriots gave the 49ers in exchange for a pick in the first round, center Trevor Matich, and one each in the second and third. There were questions about his college competition because he played at Mississippi Valley State.
So New England missed out on perhaps the greatest receiver in NFL history. Now, more than 20 years later, Moss is having one of the best seasons ever by a wide receiver.
``If I had looked throughout the league, I'd probably say it was going to be Marvin Harrison or Randy Moss to break my record,'' said Rice, now an analyst for Sirius NFL Radio.
He didn't even remember whose record he broke in 1987. And the touchdowns came so quickly, he lost count.
He does know he missed four games because of the strike - one that was canceled and three more with replacement players before the regulars returned. The 49ers finished 13-2 that season, but lost in the first round of the playoffs, a game in which Rice finally failed to score.
``I was fortunate to be able to get to 22, and Randy has a chance with three games to go,'' Rice said. ``He'll exceed that with no problem at all.''
 

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