CHAMPAIGN—There were plenty of times Sunday the Minnesota Vikings gathered no Moss.
Forget the idea of involving Randy Moss in 40 percent of the team's offensive plays. Most of the time the Vikings didn't try to find him, and other times the Bears made sure they didn't.
Moss, 25, is being paid superstar wages, including a $17 million signing bonus last season, and Mike Tice, the new coach of the Vikings, said all of his research and study showed that the Vikings won more often when Moss played a major role in the offense.
The Vikings ran 32 times and threw 29 passes Sunday. Of those 61 plays, the ball came Moss' way 12 times. That is just under 20 percent. It is 41 percent of the passing attempts.
The Bears respected Moss' reputation enough to double- and triple-team him. The Vikings lined Moss up wide leftand ran right. They lined Moss up rightand ran left. Moss did catch six passes, including a picturesque 33-yard touchdown bullet from quarterback Daunte Culpepper when he eluded three Bears defenders.
Not counting two caught passes nullified by penalties, Culpepper tried to throw to Moss only six other times. Moss, who has been testy at times in the past over the question of his game-plan involvement or has refused to talk to reporters, was gracious Sunday. He made no complaints about his usage. Regardless of math, Moss appeared underutilized.
"I can't have every ball thrown to me," Moss said. "I definitely can't catch every ball thrown to me. I guess they wanted to get other guys into it. I don't really care about the ratio. I want to win. I don't care about touchdowns. I want to win."
Of course, winning was exactly what Tice was talking about when he explained his intentions.
"We were taking what was there," Tice said of Sunday's offense. "[The Bears] were playing a lot of two-deep coverage. We were destined to take what was there. A number of plays were called to go in [Moss'] direction."
Called but interrupted because the Bears were covering Moss so well?
"You said that, I didn't," Tice said twice. "I have to look at the film."
Was he angry at Moss for his effort? Not clear. Angry at Culpepper for not throwing more to Moss? Not clear. Angry at himself for not bringing a pocket calculator to the sideline? Not clear.
A little bit of Moss goes a long way, however. He is like a rattlesnake hanging out in the grass, minding his own business until something provokes him. It was 13-10 Vikings late in the second quarter when Bears QB Jim Miller fumbled and Minnesota recovered.
On first down from the Bears' 33-yard line, Culpepper faded back and fired a beautiful pass to Moss slashing across the middle with Bobby Gray, Larry Whigham and Brian Urlacher in pursuit. One play, one touchdown, comfy Viking lead.
"After a big play like that (the fumble recovery), you definitely want to strike," Culpepper said. "That's our mentality."
Moss, who at 6 feet 4 inches and 205 pounds is bigger than most defensive backs who shadow him, showed his stuff on that reception, but his next biggest statistical contribution was an 11-yard catch in the first quarter.
"I missed a few," said Culpepper, who completed 16-of-29 passes. "I hit some too. I try to be as perfect as I can."
Given how often Moss lined up wide and then the Vikings ran successfully to the opposite side, the preoccupation of a couple of Bears defenders likely helped the Minnesota offense.
"I'm going to see that from teams," Moss said. "I'm Randy Moss. I'm going to see that. I can't really blame the coach" for steering the offense in other directions.
Moss downplayed any controversy, any misunderstanding, any hint of disharmony.
Moss said with a young team it was just good to get the opener out of the way, even if the Vikings wilted enough to give back a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. He said there was no emotion left on the Vikings' sideline when the Bears rallied, perhaps because of the heat.
On a day when the on-field temperature soared over 100 degrees, Moss said he was melting down.
"I'm so tired, man," he said. "Luckily, I didn't cramp up. I'm dragging along. I'm sweating. In the fourth quarter, it was a gut check. They came out and checked our guts."