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BOSTON (CBS) — When a football team is as successful as the Patriots, there’s not often too much to talk about after a win over a mediocre opponent.
In New England this week, that reality has led to some people overanalyzing the stat sheet from Sunday’s 34-13 win over the Titans, when Wes Welker caught just three passes and was targeted only five times. While the numbers may not be eye-catching for any other player, Welker is the NFL’s leader in receptions since 2007, so it’s at least noteworthy. Adding to the intrigue, Welker’s number of snaps on the field was down significantly from his average last year, leading some to speculate that the Patriots are in a way moving on to a less Welker-focused offense.
After offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Tuesday denied such a movement was afoot, quarterback Tom Brady did the same on Wednesday.
“He’s a huge part of this offense and what we do on a weekly basis,” Brady said of Welker. “I’m sure there won’t be too many games where he doesn’t get a lot of opportunity.”
While Sunday’s numbers were interesting, they weren’t unprecedented. Just last year, Welker had a two-catch game against Kansas City and a four-catch game against Denver. He followed those games up with performances of eight catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns and 12 catches for 138 yards, respectively. The spotlight on Welker this week is likely only due to the fact that there’s just one game for comparison this year.
“Look,” Brady said, “it’s Week 1. We have a lot of football to play and we’re going to need everybody. There are going to be games where Wes has not as many opportunities and there are going to be games where he has a ton of opportunities. It all depends on how the game may play out or the situation of the game.”
Brady also hinted that Welker’s drop in snap totals could be attributed to something as simple as preservation.
“I think the thing that is important to remember is it’s a 16-game season,” Brady said. “You start getting up there and play 600 or 700 plays every year and when you need it most, you have to be fresh. I think that goes for all of us. There’s really a fine line.”
On Tuesday, McDaniels said the Patriots simply ran more three-tight end sets, thus leading to the reduction in playing time for Welker.
“Wes’ role is the same as we’ve always gone,” McDaniels said. “We’ll go each week and try to do what we think is best to help us win. Sometimes that may include playing more multiple tight ends. Sometimes it might be playing a lot more receivers. We kind of try to feel that out as we go through our preparation and then make the decisions that go along with it.”
So, Patriots fans, fear not: He may have lost you a fantasy football matchup, but Wes Welker will get his opportunities this season.