- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This time, there were no late-game heroics to turn a Redskins newcomer into a Washington legend. In fact, unlike fellow receivers Antwaan Randle El and James Thrash, Santana Moss didn’t even score on Sunday.

But Moss still played a huge role in the Redskins’ 26-24 upset of the previously unbeaten Dallas Cowboys.

Moss embarrassed Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, himself a Pro Bowl veteran, on most of his eight catches for 145 yards. Moss’ catches of 15 and 28 yards set up the touchdowns by Thrash and Randle El, while his 53-yard bomb from Jason Campbell and 17-yard grab in the third quarter put Shaun Suisham in place for a pair of field goals.

After four games in new coach Jim Zorn’s quick-hitting West Coast passing scheme, Moss is tied for the lead among NFC receivers with 27 catches and is second in the NFL with 421 receiving yards. His three touchdowns have him tied for fifth in the league.

“When I came in and saw what he could do, I wanted to move [Santana] from the flanker position to the X receiver,” Zorn said. “I always think of the flanker as more of a control-route runner. He’s off the line of scrimmage so it takes him a little bit of time to put pressure on the defense because he has to run a yard or two to get to the line. That takes away a little bit of Santana’s threat of accelerating downfield. If you have him on the line of scrimmage, you get him on the defender a little quicker. Just a yard makes a huge difference.”

According to Zorn, it helped that Moss “bought into the idea that he was going to get the ball from that position.”

While he’s no prima donna like Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson, he is still a wideout - he wants the ball.

“He’s always saying, ‘Give me the opportunity,’” Campbell said. “Our relationship has definitely grown over the past year. … A lot of that has to do with stability and being together. … You try to keep that same continuity each week so you’re able to grow.

“A lot of it also has to do with reading body language. Sometimes I can see him breaking a route before he even does it, so I’m able to get the ball out early.”

Dallas coach Wade Phillips said the Cowboys knew what was coming on the 53-yarder that would’ve gone for six points had Campbell not underthrown Moss.

Zorn, a former NFL quarterback, said that didn’t matter since the play was both well-designed and well-run by his No. 1 receiver. He’d rather his quarterback make the completion than show off his arm.

“[Moss] put a great move on Terence Newman to beat him one-on-one,” Zorn said. “We practiced it during the week, and it was executed well. Jason made a nice avoidance in the pocket. He saw him so wide open he didn’t want to miss that throw.”

At a listed 5-foot-10, Moss is short - but his season so far stands tall against the rest of the league. He has nine more catches and more than twice as many receiving yards than any of his Redskins teammates.

Zorn’s system and Campbell’s comfort level have certainly helped, but Moss said that his improved health has made a huge difference after two years of battling muscle pulls.

Moss “shut it down” for three months after Washington’s playoff run last January, relaxing for the first time instead of heading straight back to the weight room.

The thought of rest in the offseason had always frightened him, until he got advice from fellow former Miami Hurricanes player Robert Bailey.

Bailey, a defensive back who spent 11 seasons in the NFL before injuring his neck while with the Baltimore Ravens, convinced Moss that he needed time to let his body recover. “You can’t just go out there and pound on it,” Bailey told him.

The time away from the weight room and football gave Moss a chance to try tae kwan do and other hobbies.

It also enabled him to report to training camp healthy and refreshed.

“My body is a lot better than it was in the past two years,” Moss said. “I think it’s because of the way I [backed off training] in the offseason.”

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