When Wes Welker finished with New England and joined Denver in the most unceremonious of ways last offseason, many Patriots fans were upset and figured he’d one day show the team and Bill Belichick what they were missing.
Welker got that chance Sunday night when the Broncos visited the Patriots in Welker’s Foxboro return, but Welker actually ended up proving another group — the Welker naysayers — right instead. It was a tough homecoming for the wide receiver, and he even took blame for a key play in the loss after the game.
Welker was in the action early, catching some passes as Denver rolled to a 24-0 lead on the back of a nightmarish Patriots first half. But he ended the night with an underwhelming stat line (four catches for 31 yards) and a few drops in key situations (his scourge — whether deserved or not — in New England). He was also in on the play that gave the Patriots the final bit of luck they needed to pull off the epic comeback and win.
Welker was the return man on the last punt of the game, with Denver appearing to be in position for one final drive in overtime. The punt came in tricky, though, and Welker waved to his teammates not to receive it. He was a little late on the call, though, and the ball dropped to the ground near a pack of players, bouncing off Broncos safety Tony Carter and into the jowls of the Patriots special teams crew.
New England recovered, and one Stephen Gostkowski field goal later, the Patriots got the improbable win.
"I just felt like there was a lot of traffic, it was a high ball, [and I] basically didn’t want to get into a situation where somebody’s running into me or anything else, and ended up with a situation that I didn’t want to happen in the first place," Welker said of the fateful final punt, according to Comcast SportsNet. "I gotta do a better job of getting up there and getting those guys out of the way and making sure it doesn’t hit them. I gotta get to him earlier and tell him, and get those guys out of the way if I’m not going to make the catch. I was a little bit in between, and you can’t be that way."
Welker admitted that the loss made it somewhat harder to put his time in New England behind him.
"It probably would’ve been a lot better closure if we would’ve won," he said. "I had a lot of good years here, but I feel like I’ve had closure before, and I’ve kind of moved on."
Welker was seen talking to Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft at different points in the night, and a special video of highlights of his New England career was shown before the game.
The last one he added to that reel is one that all Patriots fans will appreciate at this point.