FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When Randy Moss played for the New England Patriots from 2007-2010, he often would meet with the media and say, “Y’all got three.” Limited to just three questions, reporters had to make them count.
Now an analyst for ESPN, Moss has opened things up a bit more, as evidenced by an informative conference call he held with reporters Thursday to preview Monday night’s game between the visiting Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Some sound bites:
Why it starts up front for Bill Belichick's Patriots: “A lot of concerns for me Monday night with the Patriots are problems they’ve had in the past with Dean Pees’ defense. I’m anxious to see how well the offensive line is able to play and how they’re going to protect Tom [Brady], and being able to get that ball out on time. I think when you look at the past of the games with the Ravens, the Ravens tend to like to have Tom pat that ball, keeping him in the pocket, and keeping that ball in his hands. So I think this is one of those games, a Monday night game, could actually catapult this offensive line, knowing this Ravens defensive front is very good. I think as the offensive line goes, Tom goes. As the offensive line goes, LeGarrette Blount goes. I just think a lot of stuff really relies on the offensive line.”
More on where the Patriots will be challenged: “This is a good test for them because of the mismatch [the Ravens] can create with their front seven, and the Patriots, their offensive line is not one of their strengths right now. When you look at Tom and the history going against the Baltimore Ravens' defense, he hasn’t fared too good with them.”
Keys for the Ravens’ defense: “For me, I think they have to be able to win the game on first down. When it comes to third down, the Ravens have shown they can get teams off [the field]. One of the Patriots’ strengths is creating big plays on first down ... because you don’t know what they’re going to bring you. Are they going to run? Play-action? Spread you out? So for me, I think it’s key for the Baltimore Ravens to really show up on first down and put the Patriots in second-and-long.”
Keys for the Ravens’ offense: “It is not as high-powered and explosive as the New England Patriots can be, but I’m not discrediting the Baltimore Ravens' offense. For their offense to be able to effective, they have to be able to find ways to create some explosive plays from their running game, or Mike Wallace, [Breshad] Perriman, Steve Smith, for them to be able to hit the big plays and move the ball downfield [in the passing game]. I’m interested to see what type of plays they can create in the running game for Joe Flacco, to take the pressure off their passing game.”
His personal return to Gillette Stadium: “I’ve always had some great memories there. Being able to go back there any time, seeing familiar faces, I’ve always had a special place in my heart. So just going back up there, one, just try to stay warm. And two, being able to enjoy the game. Last week’s [Monday night] game really wasn’t that exciting -- the Jets and Colts. You had to watch it, because it’s football. But I think this game there are a lot of implications, there’s a lot of things at stake. Both of these teams are playoff-bound, so I think watching this game you will be able to find out a lot about each team going into January.”
Patriots-Ravens one of the NFL’s better matchups: “I really do think it is one of the better rivalries that has been created. When I look at when I played with the Patriots, and being able to play against the Baltimore Ravens, I think you have to give a lot of credit to John Harbaugh. When you look at what he’s been able to do with that organization and that team, he’s one of the very few coaches -- when I say coaches meaning the whole organization -- that are really not scared to fight back, not scared to punch back to New England. No matter if New England is in Baltimore or Baltimore is in New England. When you look at the success they’ve been able to have against New England, in New England, you have to be able to tip your hats off to Coach Harbaugh and his staff. I think it’s why it makes it a great rivalry. It’s not just the players that they have, ... Ray Lewis, [Terrell] Suggs, Ed Reed. It’s always been Belichick going against Harbaugh. I think it’s the chess match between Coach Harbaugh and Coach Belichick ... they’re very familiar with one another. That’s why I think this Monday matchup, we’ll be able to find out a lot about both teams going down the road.”
When the Patriots-Ravens rivalry began: “For them to be able to give us a tough match and for the  game to come all the way down to the wire that really started the rivalry of the two teams.”
Depleted Patriots offense: “I really do think they have enough to make a run at a Super Bowl. I thought Martellus Bennett would be a great complementary tight end -- his size, his speed -- to [Rob] Gronkowski. Now with Gronk gone, Martellus Bennett is now the focal point. I think I said something last week on [NFL] Countdown about not knowing if Martellus Bennett is able to take on the Gronkowski role of being able to make the tough catches in traffic. I’m not saying he can’t do it, I have not seen him do it. Now that Martellus Bennett’s role has changed, everyone has to pick it up a notch. I’m anxious to see how effective Bennett is going to be knowing that he is going to be called on a little more. I think they have the weapons to be able to make a Super Bowl run, to at least get a shot, an appearance. I’m looking at [Chris] Hogan, [Malcolm] Mitchell, [Julian] Edelman is Edelman.”