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Piling on OK here

Welker’s 13 receptions push him to 122 for the season

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / December 28, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - When Wes Welker was traded to the Patriots in 2007, he figured he may get an extra ball or two thrown his way just because he was joining a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady.

But Welker didn’t foresee record-setting numbers.

In his last season in Miami, Welker had a career-best 67 catches for 687 yards. In 2007 with the Patriots, he had 112 receptions, a team record, and last season he caught 111 balls. Yesterday he improved his team mark for catches in a season.

Welker had 13 catches for 138 yards in the Patriots’ 35-7 victory over the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium, pushing him to 122 for the season. If that wasn’t enough, Welker had more than 10 catches for the seventh time this season, tying Houston’s Andre Johnson for most 10-plus reception games in a season in NFL history.

“I knew my numbers would probably go up just having Tom and the type of offense we’re in and things like that,’’ Welker said. “I never knew it would be like this. I’m very blessed to be a Patriot and to be here. Hopefully, we’ll just keep going.’’

Welker missed two games this season because of a knee injury, but when he’s been on the field he’s been a constant in an offense filled with inconsistency. Since missing the second and third games of the season against the Jets and Falcons, the only teams to really slow him down have been the Saints, who held him to six catches for 32 yards, a season low in yardage, and the Bills, who limited him to a season-low four catches for 40 yards.

Welker said no matter how a team is covering him, he has to find a way to give Brady a target.

“As a receiver you never want to feel like you’re open or you’re covered or anything like that,’’ Welker said. “That’s not really my mind-set. My mind-set is to try to win somehow. Whether it’s [being] double-covered or safety over the top or whatever it is. It’s always working hard to try to get Tom an option to go to.’’

With one more catch this season Welker will tie Herman Moore (1995 with the Lions) for the second-most catches in a season in NFL history. The record is held by Marvin Harrison, who had 143 for the Colts in 2002. Welker is averaging 9.4 receptions a game; Harrison averaged 8.9 in ’02.

Welker yesterday had 10 or more receptions in a game for the 11th time in his career. He also has six 100-plus-yard games this season.

Not only is Welker handling his duties on offense, but he is also a primary part of special teams on punt returns. Yesterday, Welker returned one punt for 9 yards; this season he has 27 returns for 338 yards.

“I think when you catch this many balls you’re definitely going to take your shots and returning punts and things like that; [it’s] definitely probably taking a little toll on the body and stuff,’’ he said. “Really, I’m feeling pretty good, and hopefully we keep it going here through the stretch.’’

The Patriots clinched the AFC East and earned a playoff berth after missing out on the postseason last year. Welker said any questions people may have had about the Patriots didn’t make their way into the locker room.

“We didn’t really pay attention to any of that; any sort of that outside noise or anything like that,’’ he said. “We knew what we had to do, in this room, which was taking care of business on a day-to-day basis, and that’s what we’ve been doing, just continuing to work.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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