View Photo Gallery: The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the highly anticipated Super Bowl rematch at Lucas Oil Stadium. The teams faced each other at the Super Bowl in 2008.

Wes Welker finished the 2011 regular season with 22 more receptions than any other wide receiver in the NFL, and precise route-running and sure hands are two key reasons why.

With the New England Patriots clinging to a two-point lead and driving late in the fourth quarter of last night’s Super Bowl XLVI matchup with the Giants, that route-running ability resulted in a wide open Welker streaking down the field. At the very least, a catch would have extended New England’s drive and helped them milk more time off the clock. At most, it could have led to a touchdown that would have put the game out of reach.

But Welker couldn’t hold onto a challenging ball thrown high and over his outside shoulder. The Patriots were forced to punt, and the Giants marched down for what proved to be the game-winning score.

Mario Manningham’s sideline grab on New York’s game-winning drive is the highlight that will be remembered, but Welker’s drop was just as critical to the outcome. It’s he admitted he has made many times, and one that he, Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots expected him to make.

But should all the blame for the incomplete pass fall on Welker?

NBC television analyst Cris Collinsworth called it a grab Welker makes “100 times out of 100.”

Welker: “It’s one of those plays I made 1,000 times.” (Charlie Riedel/AP)

“It’s one of those plays I made 1,000 times,” Welker said. “The ball is right there. I’ve just got to make the play. It’s a play I’ve made 1,000 time in practice and everything else. It comes to be the biggest moment of my life and I don’t come up with it. It’s discouraging.”

But what about the throw itself? Welker was wide open, and Brady put the ball over his head and behind him. If Brady puts it over Welker’s inside shoulder, it’s a touchdown.

Brady’s supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, has already cast her vote, throwing New England’s receiving corps under the bus for critical drops in the fourth quarter — including several on the team’s final drive.

“You [have] to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball,” Bundchen said (via “My husband cannot [bleeping] throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”

What’s your take? Does Welker deserve all the blame for the drop? Or should Brady have made a better throw?

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Gisele Bundchen blames Tom Brady’s wide receivers for Patriots’ loss

Mike Wise: Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin come out on top again

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