(right) is a critical component of the New England secondary. (David E. Klutho/SI)
The New England Patriots lost a critical component of their defense in the second quarter Sunday when Denver wide receiver Wes Welker wiped out cornerback Aqib Talib. Though the play resulted in an incompletion, Welker easily could have drawn an offensive pass interference penalty -- earlier, the Patriots were flagged for running a pick play, as TE Michael Hoomanawanui began blocking downfield before Tom Brady completed a pass attempt.
Talib left the game after his collision with Welker, who was again sporting an extra-large helmet in hopes of preventing another concussion; Welker missed multiple games earlier this season on account of a head injury.
The Patriots initially announced that Talib's ribs were hurting him following the play, though they later changed that call to a knee injury. CBS' cameras showed Talib limping to the locker room moments after he ran into Welker. Talib briefly returned before exiting again prior to halftime.
A couple of looks at the play in question, first via The Big Lead:
And another angle on it, from LockerDome.com: