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BOSTON (CBS) — For six seasons in new England, Wes Welker was Tom Brady’s most reliable receiver, seemingly always able to step up on third down to make a big catch, move the chains and keep a drive alive. And in his first game with Peyton Manning and the Broncos, it didn’t take long for Welker to establish himself as the very same guy.
Though it’s a different offense and a different quarterback, Welker looked the same as he has for years in his debut on Thursday night, and it didn’t take very long. On the Broncos’ opening drive, on their third play and very first situation facing a third down, Manning looked left for Welker on third-and-9. Welker, of course, picked up 10.
He picked up two more first downs in the first quarter, one on a third down, and though he didn’t make a catch in the second quarter, he did draw an illegal contact penalty on a third down, which gave the Broncos a new set of downs.
He’d go on to pick up 10 yards on a third-and-9 in the third quarter, and he proved to be uncoverable in the red zone with his two touchdown catches.
Granted, one of Welker’s biggest catches wasn’t a catch at all, as he let a pass slip through his hands and touch the turf. However, the Ravens didn’t challenge the play and the Broncos were in the end zone three plays later.
Welker also wasn’t perfect as a punt returner. The Broncos used him when they expected a punt to be inside the 15-yard line, because he’s known for his surehandedness, but he muffed the punt and set the Ravens up at the Denver 1-yard line.
Though the receiver no longer has to worry about Bill Belichick getting upset about anything he says to the media, Welker sounded rather Belichickian when asked by the NFL Network to grade his own performance.
“Grade my performance, I don’t know,” Welker said from the winning locker room. “We’ll have to go back and look at the film and everything like that. I had some bad plays, and then I had some good ones. I’m going to try to eliminate the bad ones as best as I can.”
At the end of the night, Welker had nine receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns, picking up four first downs, three of which came on third down. He wasn’t the star of the night, as that honor belonged to Manning and his seven touchdown passes, but there were no doubt some anguished eyes watching in New England as No. 83 for the Broncos looked a whole lot like No. 83 for the Patriots did for so long.