Wes Welker (83) after catching a touchdown pass during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)
There must be some grumbling out of Foxborough. Even though the New England Patriots are 4-0, the road ahead looks long for a team that doesn’t really have any targets for Tom Brady.
Meanwhile in sunny Colorado, there’s some applause for the Patriots. After all, they were the ones that let Wes Welker go.
Every time the Broncos get into the red zone, they’re scoring 81.25% of the time. That success in the red zone is good enough for second best in the league (only the Miami Dolphins are doing it better at 81.82%).
A big part of that is undoubtedly the direction of Peyton Manning, but it’s also the addition of Welker. Welker leads the team in touchdowns (6). That’s the same number of touchdown receptions that he had last season through 16 games. He’s on pace to completely destroy his season high of nine touchdowns in 2011. What was that about the Broncos’ receivers dropping off in production?
“He’s a tough matchup,” John Fox said of Welker on Monday. “When we signed him, like I told you earlier, I think our defense was more excited than our offense because we don’t have to cover him anymore except in practice.”
Welker’s latest performance was a two touchdown, 76-yard day on seven receptions against the Eagles. For the first time this season, the Broncos even put him in the backfield and ran some screen plays.
“It’s a credit to him that he has that type of versatility,” Manning said. “You can do different things with him. He does a good job getting north as well, and getting that ball in his hands and going upfield.”
Even with Welker on the team, Demaryius Thomas leads the team in receiving with 393 yards (four touchdowns), and Eric Decker is second with 340 yards and a score.
It seems like each receiver is finding his own niche within the offense. Welker has taken care of business in the red zone. Thomas is the deep threat with four catches going for over 20 yards, and 21 of his 29 receptions going for first downs. Decker has been the all-around do-everything receiver.
Without Welker, could the Broncos function as well as they have been? Probably not. Adding that threat at slot receiver has made a huge difference. Other teams simply don’t have the personnel to cover the Broncos’ options.
Welker has made Manning’s trek to 16 touchdowns and no interceptions possible. Can we get a Welker shirt made saying “Catching passes, growing stashes, constantly harasses?”
Paul Revere may have even worn that one.