In the leftover rubble of Super Bowl XLVII, there is this: Randy Moss, at every stage of his career, has been tantalizingly close to a Super Bowl ring but still has nothing on his finger. He made two NFC title games in his first three seasons with the Vikings, including the 15-1 year of destiny. He was in the prime of his career on the 16-0 New England team that fell one game short of perfection. And Sunday, at the twilight, he came three points and a few yards away with the 49ers.
We tend to romanticize our memories of Moss here in Minnesota, and not without reason. He re-energized a fan base upon arrival in 1998, the majority of his 982 career catches came with the Vikings and, in balance, there were more good times here with Randy than bad.
But it might be time to face this truth: Moss is exactly who he says he is. It's been more than 11 years since he was quoted as saying "I play when I want to play" in Sid Hartman's column. The next part of the quote is less famous, but it is this: "Do I play up to my top performance, my ability every time? Maybe not."
Sadly, that applies to his playoff performances. In those two NFC title games with the Vikings and two Super Bowls elsewhere, he's averaged just short of four catches and 49 yards per game. True, he had a run of playoff brilliance for the Vikings. In three consecutive postseason games after the 1999 and 2000 seasons, he totaled 436 receiving yards and five touchdowns. But then the fateful 2000 NFC title game came. And things changed.
Starting with that 41-0 debacle (when Moss caught two passes for 18 yards), he has played in 10 playoff games -- three with the Vikings, four with New England and three more with the 49ers. In those 10 games, Moss has 28 catches for 393 yards. Total. In his past eight playoff games, he has exactly one touchdown catch.
Is it lack of effort? One would hardly think so, since the spotlight shines the brightest in the playoffs. Then again, he didn't exactly look lively Sunday en route to two catches for 41 yards and was ripped afterwards by ex-NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski on a Bay area postgame show for not making an attempt to catch Colin Kaepernick's overthrow that led to an interception (in fairness, we're not Moss could have touched that ball while standing on a ladder).
Maybe Moss, the self-proclaimed greatest receiver ever, always has made it look so easy that when he fails he's an easy target. Or maybe the numbers say it just as loud as Moss does: For whatever reason, he doesn't always play up to his ability.