Welker is just doing what he has done for years: stepping up when needed. This time, though, not as the lead, but as the understudy.
Give him this moment; after a couple of weeks with the attention focused squarely on his role in the offense, that focus was redirected to his talent on the football field after another dominant performance on Sunday.
The honeymoon may only last as long as injuries keep tight end Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Julian Edelman off the field.
Welker is more than just the ace in the hole; he's the ace that helped dig them out of a hole. Whether he's coming off the bench or in the starting lineup, he can pose matchup problems for a defense.
"To be honest with you I don't believe we've had a guy in the three years I've been here that can cover that guy one-on-one for an entire ball game," said Bills head coach Chan Gailey, according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. "He can get open. That's why he made the Pro Bowl so many years."
It's pretty hard to defend a catch like this dart over the middle.
He finished the day pulling in nine catches for 129 yards; this just a week after pulling in eight catches for 141 yards. He has pulled in a combined 17 receptions on 20 targets in the past two weeks.
Welker's big day was necessary, but unlike in previous years, that wasn't because he was the team's first choice to catch passes. In fact, the injury to Hernandez facilitated Welker getting back on the field in the first place, after it appeared he was being phased out of the offense. The injury to Edelman was the guarantee that Welker would be called upon.
The Patriots have always been fortunate to have a receiver like Welker, who knows how to get open, knows the offense and can be very effective for the offense.
They love to get him outside the numbers and let him create easy yards after the catch while getting him into open space. They did it on similar route patterns.
In the second quarter (play diagrammed above), the play went for nine yards.
In the third quarter (above), the play went for 23 yards.
Both times they targeted cornerback Justin Rogers.
On the play in the second quarter...
And again in the third quarter.
Brady and Welker knew where they had the mismatch and went right to work in the second half.
The most prolific pass-catcher in Patriots history has picked up where he left off last season, but who knows what would have happened had Hernandez never suffered his knee injury in Week 2.
We will probably get a better idea of that when Hernandez is back to full health. If the early part of the season is any indication, the Patriots may be moving on from Welker. This week and last week, he proved why he has been so valuable to this offense, and he may continue to show his value in the coming weeks, but his performances likely haven't and won't change his future with the team.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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