|Wes Welker: I wasn’t trying to knock Aqib Talib out of game||01.19.14 at 8:32 pm ET|
DENVER — Wes Welker said he wasn’t trying to knock Aqib Talib out of the game when the two collided in the first half of Sunday’s AFC title game.
“It was one of those plays where it’s kind of a rough play, and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided,” Welker said after the game. “It wasn’t a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that.
“I hope he’s OK — he’s a great player and a big part of their defense.”
After the collision, Talib left the field, and then departed for the locker room. He came back out at the start of the second half, but was unable to go the rest of the way. Following the game, Talib said ‘if I could have been out there, I would have been out there.’ The corner said he ‘[couldn't] remember how the play went,’ but said that it was ‘very difficult’ to sit and watch the rest of the game.
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FOXBORO — Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib wouldn’t comment on whether or not there was anything wrong with the hit he took from former teammate Wes Welker that knocked him out of Sunday’s AFC title game, only saying that it was “very difficult” to leave the contest, a 26-16 loss for New England.
Talib left midway through the second quarter after taking a shot from Welker to the right side of his upper body on an incomplete Peyton Manning pass over the middle intended for Demaryius Thomas. He was announced as questionable with a rib injury and then, after halftime, a knee injury was added to the prognosis.
Talib left the field, and then departed for the locker room. He came back out at the start of the second half, but was unable to go the rest of the way. Following the game, Talib said “if I could have been out there, I would have been out there.” The corner said he “[couldn't] remember how the play went,” but said that it was “very difficult” to sit and watch the rest of the game.
Asked about the hit after the contest, Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged it was a “key play in the game” and added that Talib wanted back in.
“Of course,” Belichick said. “There’s not a more competitive guy in that locker room than Aqib Talib.”
“He is a very huge part of our success,” said running back LeGarrette Blount. “A huge part of it all the way to this point. I wish he would have been able to go back in and play, but unfortunately, he wasn’t able. It hurt us a little bit.”
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DENVER — The Patriots No. 1 cornerback is questionable to return after a former Patriot delivered a big body blow.
Aqib Talib left midway through the second quarter after taking a shot from Wes Welker to the right side of his upper body on an incomplete Peyton Manning pass over the middle intended for Demaryius Thomas. He was announced as questionable with a rib injury and then, after halftime, a knee injury was added to the prognosis.
Talib went down immediately and hunched over, holding his stomach and side. He was on the field several minutes as the Patriots training staff tended to him.
Replays showed Welker going low, aiming for his ribs and making contact with Talib’s hip and right side. The Broncos used several crossing routes in the first half to free their receivers but were not call for any pick penalties. Michael Hoomanawanui was called for such a penalty, a key penalty on third down that pushed the Patriots out of field goal position on their third drive.
As the Broncos were driving down the field 93 yards for a touchdown, Talib was escorted by Patriots medical personnel to the locker room. He returned to the end of the Patriots defensive bench on the team’s sideline as the Patriots were driving down the field.
Talib walked up and down the sideline with his helmet on, appearing as if he wanted back in the game, as the Patriots kicked a field goal. But instead, he was led back into the locker room for an early halftime.
|Peter King on M&M: ‘Silly’ to say AFC championship determines Peyton Manning’s legacy||01.17.14 at 1:21 pm ET|
Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance on Mut & Merloni Friday to talk about his AFC and NFC championship predictions and Peyton Manning. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
While they have different stories, King compared the legacies of Jerry Rice and Manning to prove his point that one game should not completely define Manning’s career.
“When I think of Jerry Rice, I don’t think that he couldn’t do it when he was 42,” King said. “The Manning story is different, but not altogether so. I think we place so much emphasis on how a guy does in very, very big games, and rightfully so if you’re talking about the greatest of all time, if you’re making that argument.
“I think it’s silly to say what happens in one game, this one game 20 years from now, is going to put Peyton Manning 18th on the mental all-time quarterback list, however you’d rank it, or fourth.”
For King, the argument against decreasing the value of Manning’s legacy on one game includes the potential for a worst-case scenario during Sunday’s game.
“Suppose that Manning puts up — take a number — 35 points,” King said. “And the Denver D just totally disintegrates and [Tom Brady] scores 45, and it’s a shootout and Brady wins.
“I just don’t think you can judge Peyton Manning based on you telling me, ‘Well if he loses this game he is here in NFL history or he is there.’ … Whether he wins another Super Bowl or not, I will consider him among the top five who ever played, but I won’t consider him the greatest, because you’re right, a quarterback does have to win championships.”
|Wes Welker says comparing Tom Brady, Peyton Manning is ‘like comparing Picasso and Michelangelo’||01.16.14 at 5:20 pm ET|
Before catching 73 passes for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns from Manning this season, Welker earned his reputation as the best slot receiver in the game hauling in passes from Tom Brady between 2007 and 2012.
On Thursday in Colorado, Welker said it’s practically impossible to compare the two future hall of fame quarterbacks.
“It’s like comparing Picasso and Michelangelo,” Welker said. “It’s hard to compare the two.”
A reporter followed up by wondering if Welker actually preferred either Michelangelo or Picasso. Welker said he had heard the comparison once before and thought it appropriate.
“I couldn’t even tell you. Somebody threw those names at me one time and I thought it sounded pretty good,” Welker said.
With Manning, Welker is seeing a renaissance, much like the one in 2007 when the Patriots brought in Randy Moss and Welker to rejuvenate the New England passing attack around Brady.
“There aren’t too many differences,” Welker said. “They are great quarterbacks. They do a great job of keeping guys accountable, and their leadership skills and everything else. They are two guys you want quarterbacking your team. It’s a toss-up between those two.”
When asked Wednesday about Wes Welker and the impact he’s had on the Denver offense in his first season with the Broncos, coach John Fox and quarterback Peyton Manning didn’t mince words.
‘He’s been exactly what we thought we were getting,” Fox said when asked about Welker. “Even people in the New England organization said that we would enjoy coaching him, and we have. He came in, made a pretty big impact. The fact that he was voted captain and just got here is a pretty good indicator of what his peers and teammates think of him. He’s fit in in exactly what we thought he would be, and that’s important.’
‘Like Coach Fox said, a lot of things that I think a lot of people thought about Wes as an opponent all proved to be true once he joined us as a teammate,” Manning said. “I always assumed that he was an extremely competitive guy that loved football and a guy that loved to work, he loved to practice. The way he played ‘ I saw him many a time play Colts versus the Patriots ‘ so to have him become a Bronco, all those things checked out.
“He’s a gym rat. He loves the game, loves to work after practice [and] loves to talk in meetings about routes that he thinks might have a chance to get open,” Manning added. “He’s very knowledgeable of defenses and how teams have played him in the past, whether they’ve double-covered him or whatever it may be. So he’s been a fun guy to play with, I’ll say that.’
After six seasons in New England, Welker finished his first year with the Broncos with with 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games. After going down with a concussion that caused him to miss the final three weeks of the regular season, he returned to the lineup in last weekend’s divisional playoff win against the Chargers, and had six catches for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Welker said that after his first game against the Patriots — which ended in a loss in his return to Gillette on Nov. 24, a game where he had four catches for 31 yards — he was able to get some of that nostalgia of facing his old team out of the way. Now, heading into this weekend’s AFC title game, the focus is on football.
‘It’s still another game,” he said Wednesday when asked about facing the Patriots. “You understand it is the AFC Championship, and everything like that. You want to go out there and prepare as much as possible. At the same time, it is still an opponent and it’s a team and you’re going out there and playing to the best of your ability and go out there and try to win the game.’
|Tom Brady on D&C: ‘It would be as satisfying a victory as we’ve ever had to go to Denver and win this game’||01.13.14 at 10:27 am ET|
With the Patriots and Broncos set for an AFC championship game matchup Sunday, quarterback Tom Brady made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan to preview the game and recap Saturday night’s victory over the Colts. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots relied on a strong ground game to defeat the Colts, rushing for 234 yards and six touchdowns.
“That’s been one of our strengths here for the last six weeks, is our ability to run it,” Brady said. “I think our offensive line, the way they’ve played down the stretch has been incredible. And certainly with LeGarrette [Blount], Stevan [Ridley] and Shane [Vereen] and what they’ve done, it’s been really just huge for our team. That’s going to be a part of every game plan, and then when we got out there and we started to really become more efficient in the running game we just kept running it and running it. Then you get those big long runs where LeGarrette broke out and ran for whatever, 70-plus yards.
“It’s been just a great thing for us, to be able to control the tempo of the game. To really be a physical football team is what coach [Bill] Belichick has talked about all year. That’s really come out here really since Thanksgiving.”
Added Brady: “Over the last month we’ve been exceptional in our efficiency. All of the backs are running hard. Like I said, it starts with the offensive line and what they’ve been able to do and what they’ve been able to contribute. I know how satisfying it is for them. When you talk about rushing stats at the end of the year and where our team stands, it’s very gratifying when you’re able to run the ball like we’ve run it. Like I said, the backs do a great job finding the hole and finding what’s there, they’re running really hard, they break tackles. But the offensive line gets those guys started. They deserve so much credit.”
With the emphasis on the running game, the offensive lineman have had a chance to go on the offensive.
“It’s nice to be, for an offensive lineman, for you to be able to be aggressive,” Brady said. “Rather than, when you pass it all day, you’re really just trying to defend the spot. As a run blocker you can really enforce your will upon the other team. That’s where the basic fundamentals of football will never change: You’ve got to be able to stop the run; you’ve got to be able to run the football. Those things don’t ever change. That’s how you get to this point in the year. You’ve got to be able to win different ways, and certainly the way we’ve been able to win for a while now has been critical to our success.”
The Patriots rallied to defeat the Broncos, 34-31, in overtime on Nov. 24, but Brady put little emphasis on that game.
“There’s nothing that’s happened in the past that’s going to help us try to win this game on Sunday,” Brady said. “This game is going to come down to who plays the best. We’ll be able to take some things from the game we played and study them and prepare for them. But we’ll have different things to do, they’ll have different things to do. Their team is different than from when they played us, and we’re pretty different from when we played them.
“We’ll get our preparation going this morning and try to put together a great game plan and prepare as hard as we can, and then go out there and you let it rip. I’m excited. It’s everything you could ask for as an athlete. We’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us. It would be as satisfying a victory as we’ve ever had to go to Denver and win this game.”
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