A day after New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss' effort was questioned by Carolina Panthers defensive backs, quarterback Tom Brady rushed to his defense, deflecting the criticism by calling Moss one of his "favorite guys I've ever played with" and saying it's not easy when teams center their defensive game plan around stopping an individual like Moss.
"He's one of the top receivers in the league right now," Brady said in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Monday morning. "He is up there in yards and catches and touchdowns. Every game plan that the defense comes up with is trying to stop Randy Moss. ... It's not like they don't have respect for him when their game plan is built around stopping him."
Brady expanded on that thought later in the interview:
"When guys play Randy, they want to show everyone what they can do. I guess they came out of the game pretty confident. Randy is one of the best players in the history of the NFL. When it doesn't go perfect out there, everyone wants to jump on Randy. It's all of us, and we all have to do a better job."
Brady also took a jab at Carolina defensive back Chris Gamble, who after Sunday's game said Moss gave up on a lot of plays.
"Everyone takes liberty to say whatever they want to say in a situation like [Sunday]," Brady told WEEI. "I've seen plenty of plays made on Chris Gamble, too, over the course of the season."
In distinct Bill Belichick style, the Patriots coach also defended Moss on Monday when asked about critical comments made by the Panthers.
"My response would be that's a lot of conversation coming from a team that lost another game," Belichick said.
A few minutes later in his news conference, Belichick added another dig.
"I have a lot of respect for Randy, I think he's one of our best players and I think if you watch other teams defend him and watch other teams play against him, they think the same way -- other than these two guys from Carolina after they lost another game. I guess they don't think that way. They haven't won a lot of games now."
Moss had just one catch for 16 yards in Sunday's 20-10 Patriots victory over the Panthers, losing a fumble, dropping another ball and having a false start penalty called against him. Some also questioned whether Brady's first-quarter interception was a result of Moss not completing a route. According to numbers compiled by ESPN Stats & Information, eight of Brady's 11 interceptions this season have come on passes intended for Moss.
Brady took the blame for the interception on Monday.
"You throw it to a place where you think the guy is going to be," Brady said, "and Randy saw something, and he went to the place where he thought the ball was going to be. I don't think you blame Randy on that. I'm the ultimate one responsible with the football. I hate games where I throw interceptions, especially against a team like that, a turnover-driven team."
After Sunday's game, Gamble told The Boston Globe that "we knew [Moss] was going to shut it down. That's what we wanted him to do. That's what we did ... He'd just give up a lot. Slow down, he's not going deep, not trying to run a route. You can tell, his body language."
Carolina defensive back Chris Harris also told the Globe: "I don't want to say [Moss] quits, but he kind of doesn't run the routes the way they're supposed to be run. If you get a jam on him, he'll just ease up. He had the one catch, and he fumbled. ... We stayed on top of him. We were not gonna let him catch a deep pass. That's his game. If he can't get it going, he gets out of sync."
After the game, Brady acknowledged Moss was frustrated.
"He was frustrated in himself and the situation and it's just something you have to fight through," Brady said. "He keeps fighting through it and you have those days where it's not all great, but you keep lining up and you keep going up. You've just got to keep fighting."
Based on his track record, some have wondered if Moss will do just that. While signs pointed to Moss heading in a different direction at times Sunday, Patriots running back Kevin Faulk passionately defended him, saying he has no doubt that Moss is giving his all.
"Randy, as a person, is doing what he has to do to help this team win," he told ESPNBoston.com. "He knows what he has to do as a football player for this football team and he is doing it. Nobody in this organization is complaining about what he's doing."
Moss skipped out of the locker room without addressing reporters Sunday, deciding to let his play do the talking for him. It didn't always look good on the field. Or on the sidelines for that matter, such as when Brady came over to offer encouragement and Moss kept staring ahead.
"I know when we don't make good plays, when I throw interceptions or there are dropped passes and fumbles, I'm always trying to go over and pump the other guy up," Brady said Monday. "It's easy to get down on yourself, and it's always important to go back out there and keep battling, too. We did that definitely at times [Sunday]. Randy has definitely done that over the course of his career. He has to, because it doesn't always go right. We didn't certainly play our best game on offense, but we won and that's what is most important."
Gamble described Moss as a sneaky player, because at times it might look like he's not giving a top effort, attempting to lull a cornerback into thinking he isn't part of the play before suddenly shifting into top gear. Yet Gamble said there was little deception with Moss on Sunday. Instead, he was telegraphing the Patriots' offensive intentions.
"Some of his body language let me know it was a run, and that's how I got a feel on when to help out on the run," he told ESPNBoston.com. "I think if he came off the ball and had a little Wes Welker in him, you wouldn't know what was coming. That's what I think Moss needs to do -- be like Wes and go hard every play. I'm going to respect him, and every other [defensive back] is going to respect him if he comes off the ball hard."
During Monday's radio interview, Brady also discussed the mood in the Patriots' locker room last week, after the team had lost two straight and four players, including Moss, were disciplined for being late to a Wednesday meeting.
"I think from everybody there's frustration when you lose," Brady said. "There's one thing that's going to make us all feel better and one thing only and that's to win. There's no sense of well-being when you lose games, it's pretty much as simple as that.
"It'll be a much better feeling in Foxborough this week. I can actually turn the TV on this week. A week like last week, it's so frustrating because everyone wants to think back on the [last] game ... but you're trying to move forward ... you still obviously have that disappointment from the week before, but you've got to move forward with what's ahead."
ESPNBoston.com Patriots reporter Mike Reiss contributed to this report.