FOXBOROUGH — Without any solicitation for his opinion on the matter, Bill Belichick was quick to address Wes Welker’s open-field pick on Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib in Sunday’s 26-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots coach called Welker’s actions, “one of the worst plays I’ve seen,’’ he said.
Talib was knocked out of the game on the play.
“I feel badly for Aqib, the way that play turned out,’’ Belichick said at the beginning of his season-ending wrapup Monday morning at Gillette Stadium. “I went back and watched it, which I didn’t have a chance to [Sunday], it was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib.’’
The play in question occurred in the second quarter with the Broncos leading 3-0 and facing a second-and-9 from their own 19 with 13:34 left. Denver came to the line of scrimmage in a four-wide formation with quarterback Peyton Manning in the shotgun, Welker lined up in the slot on the right side of the formation, and Demaryius Thomas, Manning’s intended target on the incomplete pass, lined up as the sole receiver lined up on the left side.
Talib was rolled up in press man coverage on Thomas.
Thomas broke from the formation and led Talib across the middle from the left side while Welker came running across from the opposite direction. Welker leveled Talib with an open-field hit that knocked the Patriots’ best cover corner out the game with a left knee injury.
Belichick alleged that Welker made “no attempt to get open.’’
“I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play,’’ he added. “It’s not for me to decide. It was one of the worst plays I’ve seen and that’s all I’m going to say about that.’’
Talib had little to say about the play after Sunday’s game.
“I can’t even remember how the play went,’’ Talib said. “I was just upset [at being hurt].’’
Welker denied that he was trying to hit Talib after the game.
“It was one of those plays; it was kind of a rub 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 you know just kind of collided,’’ Welker explained. “It wasn’t like 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.’’
When asked if Welker’s hit sent a message to the Patriots, Thomas said, “I don’t know if it was a message. It was kind of a pick play. It was a big collision and it knocked him out of the game. The main thing was to come out and play physical as a whole group and that’s what we did.’’