“My husband cannot (expletive) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time.”
That line, spoken by Gisele Bundchen to a group of rowdy New York Giants fans on Feb. 5, 2012, became the defining quote of the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl XLVI loss. It was linked to arguably the game’s most important play: a Wes Welker drop with four minutes remaining that set up the Giants’ game-winning drive.
Episode 5 of Tom Brady’s documentary series “Man in the Arena,” which premieres Tuesday on ESPN+, focuses on the 2011 Patriots season. Naturally, Welker’s infamous drop and Bundchen’s headline-grabbing postgame reaction are prominently featured:
Bundchen: “So I’m drinking wine with Bianca (Vince Wilfork’s wife), and then in the end, they lost. So now we have to go and walk to the freaking elevator, and these guys, who probably had a few drinks (in) them, as well, were like, ‘Your husband sucks! Eli Manning owns your husband! He’s old, he’s got to retire! Just tell him to go home and cry like a baby!’ “
Brady: “We got back to the hotel, and I remember laying in bed, because I didn’t sleep that night, either. I was just laying in bed, and she said, ‘I just want to know that I said something.’ … I said, ‘You can’t say that!'”
Bundchen: “I thought I was, like, mild on what I said. I mean, it’s true. How can he do everything? He can’t catch and throw the ball at the same time. That’s just a fact. I knew how hurt he was going to be, and you don’t want somebody saying that about your husband. That’s a ‘no’ situation. Don’t do that. The next morning, when they made it about Wes, it broke my heart, because I was like, are you kidding me? That’s, like, the hardest-working guy I know on that team.”
Welker: “I know where her heart is, and I know who she is, so I almost agreed with her at the time. I was more mad at myself. It’s just funny that you get remembered by the one (play). It’s just something that I’ve got to move on from.”
The episode also zeroes in on the play itself, with commentary from Brady, Welker and then-offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
Though it’s widely remembered as a blatant miscue by the typically surehanded wideout, Brady’s pass was thrown behind Welker, forcing him to elevate and twist his body. Still, it was a drop — and a costly one.
Brady: “Second down, got the ball. There was some confusion on defense. They weren’t quite lined up over Wes, and I knew Wes had a seam route.”
Welker: “So whenever you’re running a seam, it’s all about speed. I had him, and I knew I was good.”
Brady: “Wes was running hard because he knew he was kind of uncovered. I let the ball go, and I was trying to keep him away from the safety in the middle of the field.”
Welker: “The ball was in the air, and I was just like, ‘Oh (expletive), Tom.’ But I was like, ‘All right, I can still make this play.’ “
O’Brien: “Wes had made so many unbelievable plays over the years. One of the best players I’ve ever been around. And it was a tough, tough play.”
Brady: “I had to spin him around and make it a tough catch on him. I obviously wish I would have just stuck it on him.”
Welker: “I thought about flipping my head around the other way, but knowing how important the play was, I was like, ‘I can’t take my eyes off this ball.’ We probably complete that 99 out of 100. Over and over again. Easy. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
Brady: “That was a huge play in the game, but at the same time, there was a play to be made on third down, too, and I didn’t do that one, either.” …
Welker: “Finally to get to the moment that I’ve been preparing for more than — where I’ve made these plays in critical situations over and over and over again. And to not come through? Like, I was just like, ‘Why?’ I’d rather not have any of the other ones and just have that one.”
The Patriots led 17-15 at the time. A Welker reception would have given them the ball around the Giants’ 20-yard line. Instead, after a subsequent incompletion to Deion Branch on third-and-11, New England punted, and Manning marched the Giants 88 yards to hand Brady his second Super Bowl loss in five years.
Welker became the NFL’s premier slot receiver during his six seasons with the Patriots, setting a franchise record for catches (672) that still stands and helping transform New England’s offense into a perennial powerhouse. He finished his playing career without a championship, however, losing two Super Bowls with the Patriots (2007 and 2011) and another with the Denver Broncos (2013).
“There was nobody who could define what being a great teammate was, what doing the right thing was, like Wes,” Brady says in the closing minutes of Episode 5. “Wes had the most amazing career for the Patriots, but we didn’t win the Super Bowls at those times. To me, that doesn’t take away from what his amazing career was and what his contributions were. If I’m starting a team to go to battle with, Wes Welker’s in that starting lineup.”
Episode 5 of “Man in the Arena,” a co-production by ESPN, Religion of Sports, 199 Productions and NFL Films, premieres Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN+.