BOSTON (CBS) — This is why we don’t make broad, long-term judgments based on one or two games. OK, kids?
After Week 1, Wes Welker was halfway out of New England. Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft had had enough with his leading the league in receptions and wanted to teach him a thing or two about making money as a free agent! The phase-out was on.
After Week 2, Welker was still considered to be a small part of the offense, even though he led the team with 95 receiving yards. “Yeah, but he only was targeted 11 times! And it’s only because Aaron Hernandez got hurt!” the Welker truthers shouted.
In Week 3, Welker had a ho-hum eight-catch, 142-yard performance against the Ravens, but they said it was only because Julian Edelman left the game due to injury.
Now, after a Week 4 performance in which he caught nine passes for 129 yards, make no mistake: Wes Welker is still a centerpiece of this offense. Even when Hernandez returns, and even when Edelman returns, even when two running backs combine for 243 rushing yards, and even when Rob Gronkowski turns in a 100-yard receiving performance, Wes Welker will be there making plays.
This is the same Welker who caught 122 passes last season, caught 554 passes since 2007 and was referred to as “the best player on our team” by Tom Brady in an NFL Network special that aired over the weekend. He’s an integral part of the offense, so say goodbye to the Wes Welker Truth Movement.
Now, let’s get into all the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ 52-28 victory over the Bills.
–Mario Williams signed a $100 million contract with the Bills this offseason. He was mentioned exactly once during the television broadcast, and that’s only because he got blocked clear to the sideline by Gronkowski.
Stevie Johnson signed a $36 million contract with the Bills in the offseason. He had two catches for a whopping 23 yards.
Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a $59 million contract last fall. He threw four interceptions Sunday, a worthy follow-up to his four-interception game in Week 17 in New England last season.
Money well spent in Buffalo.
–When Wes Welker returned that punt late in the first quarter and went down similarly to the way he went down in Week 17 in Houston back in 2009, did your heart explode a little bit?
–Later in the game, Kyle Williams went right for Brady’s knee and got penalized for roughing the passer. If that didn’t stop your heart, then that’s only because you had already fainted.
–It was interesting that when Jermaine Cunningham did pretty much the same thing to Ryan Fitzpatrick, there was no call. Sometimes, it pays to be Tom Brady. Actually, all the time, it pays to be Tom Brady. That was just one example.
–One of the more interesting coaching decisions from Bill Belichick came early in the second quarter, when Devin McCourty broke through his block to tackle Fred Jackson behind the line of scrimmage. Belichick decided to decline a holding penalty, which would have given the Bills first-and-20, and instead opted to roll the dice with second-and-12.
Fitzpatrick missed his next two passes, and the Bills punted. It turned out to be inconsequential, when Rob Gronkowski fumbled on the first offensive play after the punt, but it was interesting nonetheless.
–The one coaching decision I hated was the one to attempt a field goal early in the second quarter, rather than go for it on fourth-and-1. The Tom Brady quarterback sneak is 100 percent effective. That’s scientific fact. Maybe in the post-Dan Koppen era, and with Logan Mankins out, it becomes a riskier call, but Brady has a knack for always getting that yard (except for that time in Baltimore in 2007, when Rex Ryan decided to ruin everything for his team by calling a timeout when he wasn’t allowed to).
–When Stevan Ridley picks up 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, there’s a lot to like. I particularly was impressed by his recognition to cut back inside on a pitch designed to go outside. It was just a seven-yard gain, but it’s the type of heady, explosive running that can make the difference in a football game. And it did on Sunday.
–Not to take anything away from rookie Brandon Bolden’s 137 rushing yards, because you can’t get that in the NFL without earning it, but didn’t the Bills make those look like the easiest 137 yards ever? The vaunted defensive front of Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams was getting bullied around by Donald Thomas and the rest of the offensive line, which hasn’t been the recipient of praise at any point since the preseason began.
–Bolden’s touchdown run was my favorite rush of the game. It was just pure willpower on display, as he barreled through Stephon Gilmore’s chest to give the Patriots a 42-21 lead. It was Bolden’s physical interpretation of Brady’s words on the sideline.
–Oh, and there’s this on Bolden: Through four career games, his career-high is 137 yards. Through 50 career games, BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ career high in a single game is 136 yards.
–Did you know that Mark Anderson is on the Bills? What a huge loss he was for the Patriots. Now they’ll have nobody to pile up sack numbers at the end of blowouts.
–Here is some free advice to any future Patriots opponents: Don’t play injured running backs. If there’s one thing Brandon Spikes seems to really, really enjoy, it’s having the opportunity to hit injured running backs very hard. He absolutely popped C.J. Spiller a couple of times, and poor C.J.’s gutsy effort ended with him walking to the sideline in pain. I wouldn’t be surprised if Spiller’s shoulder injury got worse, and I’d be even less surprised to learn Spikes was the sole reason why.
–Spikes ought to expect an envelope in his locker this week, though, because you can’t really leave your feet to hit someone’s head from their blind side on an interception return. That’s frowned upon.
–The CBS cameras caught Brady scrambling after halftime to find his helmet. Do you think Ryan Mallett hid it in a trash can?
–I’ve seen the replay a dozen times, but I still don’t know what happened in that goal-line pile from which Vince Wilfork emerged with the football. I just know it saved the game.
–In their three games against the Jets, Browns and Chiefs, the Bills allowed 301 total rushing yards. In their one game against the Patriots, the Bills allowed 247 rushing yards.
–Twitter nearly exploded after Fitzpatrick connected with Scott Chandler for that 24-yard touchdown, with too many people jumping all over Patrick Chung for what was deemed terrible coverage. But really, anything but a picture-perfect pass, and Chung breaks that one up:
Call me crazy, but I find it hard to criticize a guy too harshly for that coverage. Maybe next time he can be a few inches taller?
–Rob Gronkowski had a great game, make no mistake about it, but he also dropped two touchdowns and fumbled on his own 24-yard line. I imagine the Patriots will sit him in a room playing video of the mistakes on loop, with “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood blaring for 90 minutes. And I imagine it will work.
–If Donald Jones never wanted to play football again after getting torpedoed by Vince Wilfork, would anyone blame him? I don’t even want to play fantasy football after watching that.
–Stevan Ridley fumbled again. This time, the Patriots were leading 45-28 at the time of the fumble. Last year, he fumbled with the Patriots leading 42-7 in the third quarter against Denver. Clearly, the kid has a fumbling problem … when the Patriots are winning by several touchdowns. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
–Hearing Rob Gronkowski try his hand at saying “complementary football” is a true treat.
–Brandon Lloyd should catch passes that go through hands and hit facemasks.
–Under different circumstances, Brady’s touchdown pass to Lloyd may have riled up the haters, saying Belichick was once again “running up the score.” But those two still have some timing issues to work through, and that touchdown was crucial heading into the week.
And it also resulted in this lovely scene:
Isn’t that precious?
Screen shots courtesy NFL.com/GameRewind