FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Surprise: the diva wide receiver who yapped the most in a meeting that featured three of them was the one on the winning side: Randy Moss, who once again decided that nobody loves him.
It is, after all, what happens when the world shows up to listen to Moss, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens show up on the same field. Never mind the game -- the Patriots won 38-24 and it wasn't that close -- we have to wait until afterward to hear them open their yaps.
Chad and T.O. were relatively subdued, fitting for guys whose team fell behind 31-3 when Brandon Tate returned the second-half kickoff 97 yards to turn the remaining 29 minutes and 12 seconds into garbage time. They almost sounded like average guys, saying the equivalent of what average guys say when they're blown out in the opener: "It's only the first game. We'll turn it around and play a lot better.''
Randy, on the other hand, chose the occasion of a big win over a team claimed by a lot of folks to be the Patriots' better, to air the kind of rant that has become familiar in Minnesota and Oakland but not in New England over his 12-plus season career.
"I really don't think that personally I'm appreciated,'' he said during a 12-minute monologue after a game in which he had five catches for 59 yards. "I'm not saying that I'm not appreciated here but I'd like to feel that some time.''
Moss, who once said while with Minnesota that "I play when I feel like,'' used this opportunity to talk when he felt like it, suggesting that he wanted to make his point in a good time so that the media (always stirring things up, you know) wouldn't go after him for doing so when things weren't as rosy.
So why not air his grievances after a big opening-day win? Moss is in a tenuous position, one he has to realize -- he is quite a smart guy when he wants to be.
While Tom Brady just signed a four-year contract extension for $18 million a year, no one is talking to Moss about a contract after his expires after this season. And, frankly, why should the Patriots throw even half that money at him?
He's 33 – six months older than Brady -- and the shelf life of wide receivers is a lot shorter than that of quarterbacks. And Moss is likely to decline before he ascends, contract nor not.
So the silence from the front office -- specifically from owner Robert Kraft -- shocks no one. Except Moss. "I'm not disrespecting the organization. I'm not disrespecting my teammates for the victory," he said. "I'm not here to start any trouble. I just wanted to get it off my chest."
The two other divas didn't have anything to get off their chest.
This game might have been decided on the first play from scrimmage, when Carson Palmer looked for Owens deep down the left sideline, hoping to exploit Patriots rookie Devin McCourty, who was in single coverage. The ball was thrown perfectly 40 yards down the left sideline. Owens went up perfectly but there was McCourty, the Pats' first-round draft pick last April, with his hand right between T.O.'s hands to knock away the ball.
It was indeed a signal that the Bengals were not going to be able exploit McCourty and second-year-man Darius Butler, something about which Ochocinco had tweeted all week.
Following the game, Ochocinco started out by saying Owens would speak for him -- the two spent a lot of time whispering in the locker room. But after Owens spoke, Ochocinco decided he'd have something to say, notably about Butler, whom he'd texted and called -- yes, these guys actually do speak to each other when they're not tweeting -- during the week before the game.
"They're real good players," he said. "Real good. I know Darius well. We hang out in Florida. He's a extremely good player."
In fact, Ochocinco used the occasion to once again audition for his post football career as a commentator (guaranteed) to halfway explain away the loss to the Patriots by his highly touted team to the work of New England coach Bill Belichick.
"Look at that team out there today," he said of New England. "With all the personnel changes they've had, Belichick is still the coach. That's why they win."
Palmer, who threw an interception that Gary Guyton returned 59 yards for a touchdown to make it 24-0 in the second quarter, sang the same tune.
"Why did we get off to a slow start?" he asked rhetorically. "He's good with a game plan. He's good at changing the game plan. He's good at adjusting the game plan mid-game. He didn't have to do that today."
Was there anything positive for the Bengals' divas?
Well, Ochocinco had 12 catches for 159 yards and went over the 10,000-yard mark in career receiving yards, the 33rd receiver in NFL history to do so. That puts him 30 places behind T.O., who went over the 15,000-yard milestone, had seven catches for 53 yards and could soon pass the retired Isaac Bruce for second place behind Jerry Rice.
"Milestone? What milestone?" Owens said when someone brought it up. "Don't care about those things." Maybe the humility was due. Moss has been quiet for a long time -- certainly Owens and Ochocinco have had a lot more face time and a lot more print mentions since he last went off.
Perhaps some sort of signal passed the 200 yards or so down the hall from the Patriots' dressing room to where the Bengals were hanging out. You know, code from Moss telling the Bengals guys to shut up – that this was his day and he wanted to get HIS gripe off his chest.
It was enough to shut up Chad and T.O.
Which is not an easy thing.