Here's the problem with New England coach Bill Belichick: He's so used to hiding the truth from the media that he simply can't believe it when somebody else has the nerve to tell it, especially if it reflects poorly on one of his own.
Belichick ripped Panther cornerback Chris Gamble Monday after Gamble ripped Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss Sunday. Gamble had told The Charlotte Observer's David Scott in the postgame interviews that Moss "gives up a lot" on routes and that "We knew he'd shut it down a little bit." (Gamble said much the same thing to The Boston Globe, which played the story up very big Monday).
Said Belichick: "My response would be that's a lot of conversation coming from a team that just lost another game."
Belichick also said Monday: "I have a lot of respect for Randy. I think he's one of our best players. If you watch other teams defend him, 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, but they haven't won a lot of games now."
Belichick was also referring to Panther safety Chris Harris, who made comments in a similar vein (although not quite as pointed as Gamble's). Gamble also said of Moss Sunday: "You can tell with his body language, that he's not going deep, he's not going to run a route. I know everybody who plays against him can sense that. If you can get 'in' him in the beginning of the game, that's what's going to happen. He kind of laid down. We didn't have to pay that much attention to him."
Here's the thing: Gamble was simply telling the truth. Moss was awful Sunday. He obviously gave up on some plays. Even on the ones where he tried, he was no factor. He caught only one pass, for 16 yards, and fumbled that one away as soon as Harris hit him. Gamble intercepted another pass intended for Moss that was thrown by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who also defended Moss Sunday.
Yes, the 5-8 Panthers are pretty terrible this season, and I'm no homer about that. I wrote about the team's "hopelessness" in today's paper and online. But I think what's going on here is Belichick and Brady know how good Moss can be. Shoot, we all do. Moss is unbelievable when he's motivated. New England desperately needs him if the Pats -- who aren't what they have been for much of this decade -- are going to make a run at the playoffs.
So Belichick and Brady are pretending nothing is wrong with Moss, because they need Moss to be 100 percent there with them when the playoffs start. That's what this is about. Gamble told the truth. Belichick is bristling because an opposing player had the nerve to tell it. That's all this is.