Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.


Posted by Bill Koch on January 3, 2010

I wanted to write about the Houston Texans today. I wanted to talk about how many nice pieces they have in place for the next few seasons. I wanted to say that if I was Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden or any other big-name coach on the sidelines looking to return to the NFL that Houston would be at or near the top of my list of places to go.

All of that changed midway through the first quarter when Wes Welker crashed down to the Reliant Stadium turf and grabbed his left knee.

The New England Patriots’ heart and soul, the league’s most productive wide receiver over the past three seasons, was down and out. Welker was helped to the sidelines and then carted off to the locker room, his day and the Patriots’ season apparently finished before their playoff run could even begin.

Julian Edelman can try all he wants, but he’ll never be able to replace what Welker gives this New England offense. Welker set a new NFL record with 9.38 catches per game this season and further established himself as Tom Brady’s go-to guy. Welker terrorizes opposing linebackers and safeties by going underneath, making the tough catches over the middle and racking up the hard yards that keep the chains moving. That sort of production is critical against the tougher defenses that teams face in the postseason.

I’ll take a guess and say that Welker tore his ACL – we won’t see him wearing that No. 83 jersey again until October at the earliest. A guy as tough and as gritty as Welker doesn’t cover his face with a towel and break into tears on the bench over a sprained knee. The trainers tending to him likely gave him their preliminary diagnosis, one serious enough to make Welker drop a few F-bombs and vent his frustration.

The debate will rage this week about whether or not Welker should have even been playing in this game, one which the Patriots didn’t need to win to qualify for the postseason or secure a home game in the AFC Wild Card round. I’m siding with Bill Belichick on this one – the starters had to play at least a quarter or maybe even the whole first half. There’s no way to replicate game speed in practice, and the Patriots would have been looking at a very stale 14 days off before hosting one of a handful of teams who could still qualify for one of the two AFC Wild Card spots had they rested their regulars. Josh Beckett still has to throw side sessions between starts, even in the postseason. There’s just as good a chance that Beckett could tear his rotator cuff on a Tuesday in June as there is two days before Game 7 of the World Series, but it’s part of the routine. It’s what Beckett needs to do to stay sharp, and playing hard for at least a little bit of Week 17 is what Belichick thought the Patriots needed to do to be effective next week. Welker’s injury is part of football – the very unfortunate part.

And so New England’s 2009 season effectively ends the same way that the 2008 campaign began – with a left knee injury. The Patriots were finished after Brady shredded his against the Kansas City Chiefs, and now they’re done again after Welker sealed his own impending trip to the operating table on Sunday. Their travel plans to Miami for this year’s Super Bowl just got canceled in the cruelest way possible, and any thoughts I had about talking up Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans Brian Cushing and Dunta Robinson vanished as well. Welker’s is the only name on my mind today – and it’s for all the wrong reasons.


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