One of the key moments in the AFC championship game came when Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker delivered a hit that knocked New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib out of the game.
Coach Bill Belichick said as much, tersely, Sunday after the Patriots’ 26-16 loss and on Monday he elaborated on his feelings, criticizing Welker in uncharacteristically tough terms.
“I was asked about the hit on Talib and I feel badly for Aqib,” he said in an opening statement Monday morning. “The way that play turned out — I went back and watched it, which I didn’t have a chance to yesterday. It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play, it’s not for me to decide. It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. That’s all I’ll say about that.”
The defense, just as it did when Talib was injured in the AFC title game a year ago, could not recover and Peyton Manning started picking it apart. Talib suffered a knee injury on a collision with Welker as he attempted to cover Demaryius Thomas on a crossing pattern early in the second quarter. Talib did not return to the game.
After the game, Welker was asked about the play and said, “I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided. … It wasn’t a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that.”
There’s a considerable amount of debate about Belichick’s feelings for his former receiver, who signed with the Broncos as a free agent, and whether the pick play is the kind that “everyone does.” Welker was not flagged on the play.
Belichick didn’t mention an earlier play by Julian Edelman on the Broncos’ Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The rule states: “If the contact occurs as ball is being touched, there is no offensive pass interference. When it happens all at the same time – the ball being touched and contact elsewhere – it is not a foul. The contact has to be clearly before the ball is touched for it to draw a flag.”