Starting with Wes Welker, Patriots are much more dangerous to Ravens now
|01.16.12 at 9:56 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady made it clear on Monday, Sunday’s AFC championship game against the Ravens is not about revenge — it’s about the here and now.
And starting with Wes Welker, he couldn’t be more accurate.
Brady and the Patriots are far more equipped to strike fear into the hearts of the Ravens than they were two years ago in the wild card round of the playoffs, when Ray Rice broke off an 83-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage and galloped their way to a 33-14 win over the Pats.
Missing that day was not only Welker but his career-best 123 catches, 1,348 yards and four touchdowns. This year, Welker had 122 catches, a career-best 1,569 yards and nine TDs.
Now, the Patriots not only have a healthy Welker – something they didn’t have that day — but Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, two of the most dangerous and versatile tight ends in team history.
“I feel like it’s been the same as what it has been,” Welker said. “I’m just trying to do my job out there. Those two guys are phenomenal players and at some point the defense is going to realize how good they are and it’s definitely going to open up things for me and vice versa and everything else. We all are together in this and all play together and all play our role.”
They’ll need all of them to be firing on Sunday against the Ravens defense.
“They’re a great team — they wouldn’t be in this spot if they weren’t,” Welker said. “They do some great things out there. Their defense, they cause a lot of turnovers, they do a lot of great things out there. They run to the football, they tackle well, they cover well, they rush well, they do a lot of things well. Across the board they’re just a great football team – that’s why they’re in the position they’re in and why they were the number two seed going in. We definitely have our hands full with these guys.”
This week, it might be the Ravens who have to deal with a big injury. Safety Ed Reed turned his left ankle badly on the last play of Sunday’s win over the Texans. X-rays were negative but he was limping badly as he came off the field. Still, Welker and the Patriots expect him to play and make an impact.
“His range, the great player that he is and [has] been for so long; the big interception at a critical, critical point in the game that he had this last week,” Welker said. “Anytime you have a guy back there like him, you’re always weary of throwing the ball deep and letting the ball hang in the air too much or anything else. The guy is a phenomenal player and he’ll make you pay for it.”
Welker had to watch the game in the same suite as the Kraft family, sitting between the late Myra Kraft and Robert, with Jonathan and Jon Bon Jovi. What are Welker’s recollections of that 2009 playoff game against the Ravens?
“Wasn’t too good of thoughts definitely during that game only watching but I’ll be able to play and things like that. That was then and this is a total new year, a total new team, total new everything. We just have to go into it prepared and make sure we’re ready and play much better this time around.”
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