BOSTON (CBS) – All season long the Patriots battled back from key injuries to members of their defense.
But on Sunday, it finally caught up to them.
Cornerback Aqib Talib went down in the second quarter after colliding with former New England receiver Wes Welker, and the secondary couldn’t pick up the slack the rest of the way.
Talib didn’t see Welker as he tried to defend Thomas over the middle. Welker set a pick, sending himself right into Talib, and the corner to the ground. After spending a short time on the sideline Talib made his way to the X-Ray room with the Patriots training staff. He was back on the sideline for the second half, but did not return to the field with what the team called a knee injury.
Following Talib’s departure, Peyton Manning picked apart the Patriots’ secondary, throwing for 289 of his 400 passing yards.
“That was a key play in the game,” head coach Bill Belichick said following the loss.
Talib said he doesn’t remember the play that knocked him out of the game, and it was difficult to watch the rest of the tilt from the New England bench.
“If I could be out there, I would’ve been out there, man,” he said after the loss.
This marks the second year in a row that Talib was unable to complete the AFC Championship game for New England. He left in the first quarter of last season’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens with a thigh injury, which also opened up the passing game for the Patriots’ opponent.
The 28-year-old Talib is set to become a free agent after being franchised by New England for the 2013 season.