New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick delivered a scathing, accusatory review of Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker’s block on cornerback Aqib Talib in the second quarter of Sunday’s AFC Championship game.
Talib left the game with what was initially announced by the Patriots as a rib injury. The Patriots said 10 minutes later Talib suffered a knee injury.
“I was asked about the hit on (Aqib) Talib and I feel badly for Aqib the way that play turned out,” Belichick said Monday morning at the team facility. “I went back and watched it, which I didn’t have a chance to do yesterday. I think it was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib; no attempt to get open. I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play; it’s not for me to decide, but it’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen.”
Broncos head coach John Fox said Monday that he wasn’t prepared to comment without seeing Belichick’s comments for himself. He also said he didn’t review the game film from the AFC Championship.
“I know Wes Welker is a great player, high integrity,” Fox said. “He did not do anything with intent (to injure).”
Welker said Sunday the contact was unintentional, and definitely not malicious.
“It was one of those plays where it’s kind of a rough 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 we just kind of collided,” Welker said Sunday afternoon from his locker. “It wasn’t a deal where 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.”
The Patriots failed to match up in man coverage without Talib, a Pro Bowl-caliber coverage defender.
The “pick” play, on which receivers run crossing or drag routes in opposite directions to create traffic for defensive players to avoid, is not legal.
According to the NFL rulebook, the reception and offending block or pick in question must clearly occur in a specific order to warrant a penalty.
“If the contact occurs as ball is being touched — no offensive pass interference should be called. When the sequence is simultaneous: the ball being touched and contact elsewhere, it is not a foul. The contact has to be clearly before the ball is touched for it to draw a flag.”
Talib was in a volatile mood in the postgame locker room. According to New York Post reporter Bart Hubbuch, Talib shouted an expletive and told the reporter to “get out of my face” before a media relations staffer intervened.
Subpar game for Brady
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has a well-deserved reputation for being at his best in the biggest games, did not have one of his better postseason games. He finished 24 of 38 for 277 yards and took two key sacks at critical points in drives.
“We didn’t do much of anything early in the game, so run or pass it, it was hard because we didn’t complete the third downs,” Brady said. “So then it was really hard to get in the run game. We had two three-and-outs to start the game. It’s hard to be productive when you’re not making third downs. We were playing from behind all day.”
Broncos’ Fox seeks first Super Bowl win
The Broncos improved to 20-17 all-time in postseason play, including 7-2 in the AFC championship game. In eliminating the Patriots, the Broncos snapped a four-game losing streak to New England.
Coach John Fox has the Broncos to three consecutive AFC West titles in his three seasons with the team and guided them back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 years. He’s making his third trip to the big game as an assistant or head coach, though he has yet to win it.
“I’ve known good friends, good coaches that have done this for 30 years and have never been,” Fox said. “I tend to look at the glass a little bit more half-full than half-empty. I feel very blessed. This is my fourth championship game and getting ready to head to my third Super Bowl either as an assistant coach or head coach. I’ll be honest with you, I feel very blessed about that opportunity.”
Fox, who guided Carolina to a Super Bowl appearance in 2002, is the sixth head coach in NFL history to lead multiple teams to the championship.