It's fitting that Wes Welker's return to Foxboro will be defined by the return he messed up. The Denver Broncos receiver was poised to be the x-factor on Sunday Night Football, and he was just that when he waited too long to call off a late punt return that hit teammate Tony Carter and set up New England's game-winning field goal.
Welker acknowledged that his delay in calling for the no-return was the reason for confusion.
"I was probably a little late getting it to him," he acknowledged. "I have to do a better job of getting up to him and getting those guys out of the way. I was a little bit in between, and you can't be that way."
It was a distracting night for Welker and the Broncos. The team was forced to turn to a ground game after Peyton Manning struggled to throw the ball in frigid conditions, and Welker's return was a fizzle rather than a bang -- finishing with 31 receiving yards on eight targets.
When he was set to return the now-infamous punt crowds were chanting Welker's name, not out of admiration as they'd done in the past, but to distract the Broncos receiver. His slowness is making a call resulted in the worst case scenario on the play.
"I just felt like there was a lot of traffic, it was a high ball, and basically didn't want to get into a situation where somebody is running into me or anything else. It ended up with the situation that I didn't want to happen in the first place," he said.
The Broncos will return to Denver to lick their wounds, but the team can't afford to dwell on the loss. New England is one game behind Denver in the AFC standings, and now own the head-to-head which would force the playoffs to move through Foxboro should the Patriots be able to take the lead. If that occurs Welker will likely have a chance to redeem himself.