Try not using a four-letter word.
There's no telling exactly where the Pats would stack up this year if it weren't for the swift hands and reliability of their courageous slot man. The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder leads the team in receiving yards and owns a league-most 105 receptions this season, but despite these numbers, it isn't all about the stats with this lunch-pail Patriot.
When it comes to Welker, it's about when and where he makes the catches, not necessarily how often. Tom Brady's favorite target rarely makes the deep grab but he blocks, returns punts, cuts blindly through the slot, and sparks rallies when the Patriots need one the most. Most people call it blue-collared; others call it the perfect remedy for a winning offense.
Such consistency and grit was displayed in Sunday's 20-10 win over the Panthers, specifically in the third quarter, when Welker was buried by Carolina's Charles Godfrey on what looked to be a meaningless six-yard pick up to make it third-and-2 from New England's 12-yard line.
As Welker quickly peeled himself from the Gillette turf, he did something that most people wouldn't even imagine doing after getting lit up like he did: he celebrated.
Not just because that catch was his 100th of the season, giving him three straight years of at least 100 receptions. Welker celebrated because he thought his team and the rain-soaked crowd needed to get fired up with things knotted at seven apiece.
“I don’t know — it just kind of happened," Welker told WEEI.com "It wasn’t really planned or anything like that. I just decided to kind of get the crowd into it and try and get us going a little bit. We’d been flat pretty much the whole game, and we needed a big drive right there. That’s when you’ve got to step up and make some plays and get the crowd into it. I think it energized some of the guys and it led us down to a touchdown.”
As if the generally stoic receiver's cheerleading act didn't wake up his team and his crowd, his four additional receptions in that touchdown drive alone certainly did. Welker ate up 64 yards in that go-ahead drive and ended the day with 10 catches for 105 yards.
“Those plays he made there in the third quarter really sparked us,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “He’s a tough guy. For his stature, he’s got the biggest heart on our team. He’s just been such a big part of the offense since he’s been here. Consistent, reliable, durable, explosive player. Catches the ball every time you throw it to him. He’s pretty awesome.”
Even the spark plug caught praise from the opponents.
“Wes Welker is a very underrated player,” said Carolina safety Chris Harris. “He is one of the best, if not the best, in the game right now. I thought we did a good job on him in the first half, but in the second half, he kind of got rolling. He is very crafty.”