Patriots gather round receiver Moss after taunts

BOSTON (Reuters) - New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have rushed to the defense of wide-receiver Randy Moss after opponents accused him of easing off after physical challenges.

Carolina Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble and safety Chris Harris both said on Sunday that Moss rarely performed well after coming in for some physical treatment.

The Patriots beat the Panthers 20-10 but Moss made just one catch, a 16-yard reception that ended in a fumble, and the Panthers pair said that was because Moss was well known as a player who 'shut it down' after receiving some tough attention.

"I have a lot of respect for Randy, I think he's one of our best players," said Belichick. "I think if you watch other teams defend him they think the same way.

"Other than these two guys from Carolina, after they lost another game, I guess they didn't think that way. They haven't won a lot of games now," he added.

"Randy Moss has been one of our most consistent players since he's been here. His production has been pretty good. I think you certainly see that in the way that teams defend him."

Brady told Boston radio station WEEI that any failings in the Patriots' performance were collective.

"Randy is one of the best players in the NFL. When it doesn't go perfect out there, everyone wants to jump on Randy. It's all of us and we all have to do better," he said.

Team mate Wes Welker with 1,158 yards is the second-ranked receiver, behind Houston's Andre Johnson.

(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Clare Fallon)