In six short seasons with the Patriots, Wes Welker became the franchise's all-time leading receiver and an NFL icon for slot receivers. Welker racked up 672 receptions for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns, setting a new standard by which receivers in the middle of the field are judged.
Welker's value to the Patriots was unquestionable, as was his consistency, with 18 games of 10-plus receptions, and durability, missing just three of 96 regular season games. It's hard to rank his best performances as he was so consistent, but there were certainly a collection of iconic games that stood out above the rest.
Here's a look back at the top-10 best games of Welker's Patriots career.
Stat Line: 11 catches, 103 yards
Not the most dominant stat line of Welker's career, but his 11 receptions tied him with Deion Branch, Jerry Rice and Don Ross for the most in a Super Bowl.
Welker caught three passes for 28 yards on the drive that gave the Patriots a 14-10 lead with 2:45 remaining in the game. Had the Patriots been able to hold on to that lead, Welker would've likely been the MVP of the game.
This was the most disappointing loss in Patriots history, and will be nearly impossible to top in that regard. They've settled into history under punchlines about Spygate and 18-1, but everyone forgets they were that close to being the undisputed greatest team of all time, and Welker was one of the biggest parts of that team.
Stat Line: 12 catches, 134 yards
This was the only game of the Brady-less 2008 season that Welker had 10-plus catches, and also yielded his best yardage output of the season. He chipped in a two-point conversion that gave the Patriots a three-point lead with just 2:41 left to play.
With Matt Cassel at quarterback, Welker still put up 111 catches for 1,165 yards, but just three touchdowns, proving that his success wasn't just based on Tom Brady throwing to him. His consistency and the Patriots' smart use of Welker was never more apparent than this season.
Stat Line: 13 catches, 104 yards, one touchdown
Welker tallied the most catches of his 2012 season against the team he would sign with the following offseason. While his stat line isn't overwhelming, it was the part he played in the Patriots' attack that set a franchise record with 35 first downs in the game.
This illustrates the trickle-down effect Welker had with the Patriots, not just being incredibly hard to defend, but also opening up opportunities for the rest of the offense.
Stat Line: 11 catches, 124 yards, two touchdowns
In the "Getcha Popcorn Ready" matchup between the 5-0 Patriots and 5-0 Cowboys, it was Welker who stole the show, not Terrell Owens. If there was any doubt how dangerous the Patriots' offensive attack was, this game proved that the Patriots with Welker would be nearly unstoppable in 2007, resulting in a Sports Illustrated cover saying "Yes, That Good."
After dominating a huge game in the national spotlight, this was Welker's coming-out party. He also added two kickoff returns for 55 yards, and three punt returns for 37 yards, giving him 216 total yards, his best performance of the 2007 season.
Stat Line: 15 catches, 192 yards
After Welker's departure from New England in 2013, Rex Ryan had this to say:
"I'm glad Wes is not there. I'm not kidding. That guy was a pain in the tail. I hated Wes Welker. Just kidding. Kind of. I admire him. I'm a huge fan of Wes Welker's, but I'm glad he's gone.
This 2009 Week 10 AFC matchup, won by the Patriots, 31-14, is a good reason why. The Patriots had lost to the Jets in Week 2 without Welker, and the rematch would go a long way toward determining who had control of the division.
Welker showed what a difference he could make as the Patriots' offense rolled, with Welker totaling 192 of the Patriots 310 passing yards. It was the second-highest yardage total in his Patriots career.
Stat Line: 16 catches, 217 yards, two touchdowns
Though it was an ugly, 34-31, loss for the Patriots, this 2011 Week 3 game was Welker's best receiving performance with the Patriots, both for number of catches and receiving yardage. He also added a 19-yard carry.
Welker's second touchdown tied the game, 31-31, with 3:33 left in the game, but the Patriots' defense could not get a stop as the Bills kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired.
2011 was Welker's best year with the Patriots, recording career highs for yardage (1,569) and touchdowns (9). But perhaps most telling are Welker's total numbers in the Patriots' three playoffs games in 2011: 19 catches for 168 yards and one touchdown.
Stat Line: 9 catches, 138 yards, two touchdowns
One week after tearing up the Cowboys, Welker went off again on his old team, a trend that would recur over Welker's six years with the Pats. In this one game Welker doubled his touchdown output from the season before with Miami, leaving the Dolphins scratching their heads as to how they could let this guy get away for just second- and seventh-round draft picks.
In 11 career games against the Dolphins, Welker put up 95 catches for 1,178 yards and five touchdowns.
Including the Dallas game the week before and the Redskins game the week after, the Patriots put up 149 points, with Welker getting five touchdowns, the best three-game stretch of his career. This was the pinnacle of the 2007 Patriots offense.
Stat Line: 8 catches, 64 yards, two touchdowns
Neither Welker's catches or yardage stats are particularly outstanding, though he did tie his career-best two touchdowns for the fourth time. He'd go on to have eight total two-touchdown games.
What makes this game ranked so high on the list is the fact that he was just eight months removed from tearing his ACL in Houston. 2010 was Welker's only down year statistically, but 86 catches for 848 yards and tying a career second-best with seven touchdowns is still remarkable coming off what used to be a devastating injury that took a full year of rehab.
After a full offseason wondering if Welker would be ready before the playoffs, he came out in the opener and showed that even with a rebuilt knee he'd still be a force to be reckoned with. Welker's toughness is legendary, and there's no better example of that than his 2010 season.
Stat Line: 8 catches, 160 yards, two touchdowns
The 2011 Monday Night opener was a record-setter for Tom Brady, putting up a career-best 517 passing yards, but perhaps the most memorable moment of that night, and of Wes Welker's career, was his 99-yard touchdown that effectively sealed the game.
After years of being called too small and too slow, no other single play summed up just how good Wes Welker really was. The fact that it came against his former team in their stadium was only icing on the cake.
When Welker is inducted into the Patriots Hall at Patriots Place, this is the signature play they'll show.
Stat Line: 10 catches, 150 yards, two touchdowns
The most iconic game of Welker's career came in arguably the most frustrating Patriots season in recent memory. The Pats were coming off a disappointing, 20-17, loss to the Broncos, and seemed to lack the Patriot magic of years past.
This performance embodies what made Welker such a dynamic player. Most of the big plays he made in his career were not of the Randy Moss-spectacular variety. Instead he was a consistent player who would always get open and move the chains, especially in big regular-season games that the Patriots needed to win.
In 93 career regular-season games, Welker was held under five catches just 18 times. In nine career playoff games, he never had less than six.
Welker was a legendary Patriot who, like Adam Vinatieri, will close out his career on a different roster. But nothing can detract from the hundreds of catches Welker made for the Patriots, and just how much he meant to the team in his six short years in New England.
One day, when he's inducted into the Patriots Hall, Patriots fans will forget about the time he spent in Denver with Peyton Manning. Until then they'll have all the outstanding performances like the ones listed here to remember him by.