This is his everything.
He won't tell you much about it. Wes Welker seems to gets cruel kicks from answering questions. His quotes are so brutally banal, they should play his interviews to captured terrorists. ("Tell us the truth — or we'll make you listen to Welker!")
But for this Broncos slot receiver, this one game is his everything.
His chance to beat Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots — who didn't make a strong push to re-sign him — and do so in the AFC championship game.
His chance to stick it to those New England fans who think he's replaceable.
His chance to redeem himself after an awful game at New England this season, in which he was a nonfactor ... until his punt-return blunder that led to the Patriots' win.
His chance to go to another Super Bowl.
And his chance to win his first.
After snoozing through a dozen questions at a news conference this week, Welker finally, inexplicably opened up upon being asked if he talks to young players about the difficulty of reaching the Super Bowl.
"I try to tell them about when I went in 2007 — we were undefeated and we lost," Welker said. "And I was thinking we'll be back next year, and we'll be back the next year and the next year and we are going to win one. You don't realize how hard it is to get there. You've got to appreciate it and seize that moment — and you have to take advantage of it."
These moments slip through hands like a Tom Brady pass, and Welker can vouch for this simple simile both figuratively and literally. He botched a catchable throw late in his second Super Bowl, and later Brady's wife, a woman by the name of Gisele Bundchen, was caught on camera muttering: "My husband cannot throw the (bleeping) ball and catch the ball at the same time."
Welker can make one wary. He's back, but is he back? He returned last Sunday from his hiatus following two concussions in 22 days. He wore an oversized padded helmet that made him look like a Lego. He scored a touchdown, but he also dropped two passes and a third thrown his way was nearly intercepted when the timing seemed off between Welker and his quarterback, Peyton Manning.
But he's fortunate he already got to play a game post- concussion.
And he's fortunate he already got to play these guys. Got it out of his system. There won't be any of that first-time-seeing-such-and-such to cloud the day. But there's no question he'll be smothered by pressure. And his postseason past looms.
Besides @DenverPost and @KateUpton, I believe my favorite follow on Twitter is @ESPNStatsInfo. My kind of nerds. Here were two Welker-y stats they pointed out:
• Since making his first playoff appearance with Patriots in 2007, Wes Welker has nearly twice as many postseason drops as any other player.
• Since 2006, Wes Welker has dropped 4.2 percent of regular-season targets and 11.1 percent of playoff targets.
Right away, these make me think of two buzz words that are staples in sabermetric and statistical debates: sample size and clutch. As for sample size, yes, the playoffs are the playoffs, the most intense competition we've got, but they're really just a handful of games so how much credence do those stats have? And, as for clutch, many forward-thinking sports researchers say that clutch doesn't exist, and that over the course of time — thus, a larger sample size — averages will even out. Many fans don't buy it.
This is his everything.