Wes Welker cannot be fully appreciated on paper and in black and white, and Sunday made that more evident than ever. Welker rarely shows much emotion, but he does what the Patriots need, and Sunday they needed someone to show emotion.
Welker spurred the Patriots to a 20-10 over the Panthers, particularly on a third-quarter drive that gave the Patriots life. He caught a short pass and was decked by Charles Godfrey. He shook the remnants away, stumbled, and went back to the huddle. He caught the next pass for a first down. And then he did something un-Welker. He pumped his arms up down, because he thought the team and the crowd had been flat.
On the drive, which ended with a Benjamin Watson touchdown catch, Welker made five catches for 62 yards and went back to the pump-up-the-crowd well once more, to great effect. It is not a stretch to say this: The Patriots won Sunday because of how Welker played during those 15 or so real-time minutes. It was a remarkable performance, and it had to be watched to be rightfully appreciated.
But if you want to look at the numbers – good God. Welker is rightfully getting a lot of attention, but his season may be somehow underrated in a sense: Welker is having a historically great season.
- Welker leads the NFL with 105 catches, 18 more than anyone else – Reggie Wayne is second – despite missing two games to injury.
- Welker has gained 1,158 receiving yards, second in the league only to Andre Johnson, who has 1,237. Welker’s 105.3 yards per game is the best in the NFL, 10 more than Johnson.
- That 105.3 yards per game is the third most this decade and seventh most since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
- The NFL record for receptions in one season is 143, by Marvin Harrison in 2002. Harrison caught 8.9 passes per game that season. Welker is averaging 9.5 catches this year. If he continues at that pace, he will finish with 133 catches. The second-most catches ever in one season is 123, by Herman Moore in 1995.
Here’s the full top 10:
1. Wes Chandler*, Chargers 129.0 1982
2. Jerry Rice, 49ers 115.5 1995
3. Isaac Bruce, Rams 111.3 1995
4. Marvin Harrison, Colts 107.6 2002
5. Torry Holt, Rams 106.0 2003
6. Herman Moore, Lions 105.4 1995
7. Wes Welker, Patriots 105.3 2009
8. Marvin Harrison, Colts 103.9 1999
9. Terrell Owens, 49ers 103.6 2000
10. Jimmy Smith, Jaguars 102.3 1999
*Chandler played in eight games. Still, that’s a big number.