Monday, February 6, 2012

Patriots goat Welker: The agony of the irony

A month into the 1994 baseball season, I covered a no-hitter pitched by Twins enigma Scott Erickson. What made the feat especially amazing was that he had allowed the most hits in the major leagues the year before.

The most hittable pitcher in baseball throwing a no-hitter. It isn't easy to beat that for irony.

Well, Sunday night in a memorable Super Bowl, Wes Welker out-ironied Erickson.

From 2007-11, the Patriots' star receiver caught 554 passes, by far the most of any NFL player. In the season just concluded, he led the league with 122 catches -- 22 more than anybody else.

And yet there he was Sunday, with about 4 minutes to play, dropping a Tom Brady pass that hit him in the hands. NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth, a former All-Pro receiver, was stunned: "Welker makes that catch 100 times out of 100."

The catch would have given the Patriots a first down inside the Giants' 20-yard line. The Patriots already led by 2 points, so if they had proceeded to go in for a TD, it would have sealed the deal. Even if the Pats would have settled for a field goal, the Giants were down to one time out, there would have been precious little time left and a victory would have been difficult even for comeback king Eli Manning.

But Welker dropped the ball, the Patriots had to punt, and Manning, with plenty of time on the clock and needing only a field goal to take the lead, methodically marched the Giants to the winning score.

There were many things that did the Patriots in, including uncharacteristic penalties, an inability to run the ball and Brady being mortal.

Still, had the NFL's premier pass-catcher caught an eminently catchable pass, the Patriots almost surely would have won their fourth title.

Take that, Scott Erickson!


  1. That throw to Welker was high and nearly behind him. I'm sure Collingsworth thinks Welker's a great receiver but one thing he isn't is a contortionist. There were other throws that were legitimate drops but that one would've been a great catch.

  2. Welker absolutely should have caught that ball. Had both hands on it and plenty of time/space to pull it in. Collinsworth would have caught that pass in his day, and Welker said repeatedly that he has caught similar passes hundreds of times.

  3. The ball was behind Welker when he turned to catch it. You can make the case he turned the wrong way, but it wasn't a routine catch at the point he contacted the ball.