"That was sickening yesterday. It was one of those moments that just breaks your heart. You're literally sitting there in your living room screaming NO!" - Michael Felger on Wes Welker
The Felger and Massarotti Collin-tary with Kevin Collins
Sunday's 34-27 defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans was one of the most painful defeats the Patriots have had in recent memory. The game's score seemed trivial midway through the team's first offensive possession when Pro Bowl wide out Wes Welker left the game with a serious knee injury. According to team sources Welker tore his medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. It is the same injury Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suffered at the beginning of last season and will likely sideline Welker for 10-12 months.
Felger: "That was sickening yesterday. It was one of those moments that just breaks your heart. You're literally sitting there in your living room screaming NO! With all the replays, the different angles of Welker's knee buckling, and his limp body falling to the turf while he grasps his leg in agony. It was just sickening. Then the shot of him trying to get off the field on his own and limping over the bench only to sit with a towel over his head in tears. He knew right away. He knew his season, and likely the majority of next season was over for him. Those shots of him in tears on the bench with his teammates surrounding him just break your heart. To think back to all the big hits this guy has taken over the years, he's always bounced right back up. Now this freak injury happens to him without any contact. Welker being out of the playoffs this year isn't even the worst thing to me. It's the fact he will likely miss most of next year too. With all this team has been through Tony, this just makes me sick."
Mazz: "Welker is one of those guys everyone likes. His teammates, the coaches, the media all like the guy. Welker has been a classic underdog story where he's been an overachiever in the NFL. This guy works his ass off every day. Wes Welker has easily been the Patriots MVP this season. I mean what's not to like about him? Really? What's not to like? The crushing thing about this injury to a guy like Welker is he will probably never be the same again. You know he's going to work his tail off in rehab to try to be the best player he can be when he comes back, but only so much is possible. Brady had a very similar injury and came back the next season, but it's different for quarterbacks. Sharp, quick, decisive cuts are how this guy makes his money. He already had very little room for error with his size and the amount of hits he takes. To do what he's been doing at the level he's been performing is just unlikely from here on out. What a blow this is for him not only this year, but for his career. He has easily been the Patriots MVP this season. It's just a real shame Mike."
The Collin-tary: The Patriots have suffered several gut wrenching defeats this season. However, blowing fourth quarter leads in Denver, Indianapolis, and Miami aren't close to as painful as the loss suffered at Reliant Stadium last Sunday. On the fourth offensive play from scrimmage, the Patriots lost the heart and soul of their football team.
As Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker clutched his left leg in agony, millions of New Englanders were begging and pleading their TV screens for him to pop up. After all, we had seen this 185-pound dynamo peel himself off the turf after some of the most violent collisions in all of professional sports. Surely a slight skid on a bad piece of turf couldn't be enough to sideline the Patriots version of superman? Could it?
Unfortunately the answer is yes. The Patriots have now lost their emotional leader, and likely the team MVP in 2009. For all the Julian Edelman believers out there, I admire your faith, but let's be realistic for a moment. Edelman is no Wes Welker. There is not one player on the Patriots roster capable of filling the cleats of #83.
Think back to the Carolina game for a moment. It was 7-7 midway through the third quarter. The Patriots offense was floundering, pinned back at its own 4-yard line, and in desperate need of a spark. Welker caught a pass for six yards on 2nd and 8 and took a violent hit from Panthers corner Charles Godfrey. The gasps from the Gillette Stadium crowd following the collision immediately turned to applause as Welker sprung to his feet pounding his chest. Godfrey seemed stunned as before he could finish his celebratory dance, Welker had popped up off the turf to greet him. Suddenly, the crowd was into the game as Welker began demonstratively encouraging his teammates in the offensive huddle. He went on to catch 5 passes for 64 yards during the Patriots 13 play, 96 yard drive in which they seized control of the game. The drive took 7:20 off the clock and gave the Pats a 14-7 advantage late in the third quarter. A lead they would not relinquish thanks to the wake-up call from Wes. If it weren't for his emotional leadership, intensity, and downright refusal to be knocked down who knows what the outcome of the game might have been.
The 2009 football season has been filled with turmoil for the New England Patriots. This Sunday at Gillette Stadium the Patriots will stare down adversity once again. This time it will come in the form of Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, and the Baltimore Ravens. There have been numerous occasions over the past few seasons where Wes Welker picked his team up. Now, it's their turn to pick him up. The organizational philosophy in Foxboro has always been one game at a time. The Patriot way has been to focus on going 1-0 each week during the playoffs. That will remain the same. However, this post season, each week the team is fortunate enough to suit up for battle, they will be set on winning one for Wes.
How far will the Patriots advance in the playoffs without Wes Welker? Who is likely to step up in his absence? Do the Pats need to change their offensive philosophy without Welker? Can they contend for a Super Bowl?