Clearly, Welker was hurting from the injury sustained to his left knee as he planted and cut in open space on the Patriots' third offensive play against the Texans.
He knew it was bad. And it is.
According to multiple sources, Welker has both a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, meaning he'll miss the entire postseason. And while it's purely speculative, there has to be concern about the start of the 2010 season considering that the recovery for an injury like this could take anywhere from 6 to 12 months. This diagnosis was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, who adds that Welker will undergo further testing on Monday.
The injury is devastating on so many fronts.
First, it's a crushing end to a career season for Welker, who made his 123rd reception of the season on the play that ultimately ended it. He finished the year with 1,348 yards receiving, the third-highest total in Patriots history. His 8.8 receptions per game are second-most in NFL history, behind Marvin Harrison's 8.9 average in 2002. Interestingly, Welker was averaging 9.4 yards per catch entering Week 17; he would've eclipsed Harrison's mark had he sat out this final Sunday of the regular season.
And that brings us to point No. 2: Why was Welker even out there?
The debate has raged over playing or resting starters for playoff-bound teams heading into these final few weeks. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is going so far as to have the league's competition committee consider offering incentives to discourage teams from resting their starters in the future.
No doubt, Bill Belichick will face heavy criticism for this — be it fair or unfair. The argument surely can be made that Welker's injury is Exhibit A for resting starters in what amounted to a meaningless game for the Patriots. But there is no denying the freak nature of it — Welker's knee could've buckled in practice, or in any week earlier in the season.
Regardless, there is no denying that New England's road through the playoffs will now be considerably bumpier without Welker.