By Ben Eagle
January 20, 2014

Wes Welker (right) knocked Aqib Talib (not pictured) from the game on an off-field pick Sunday. Wes Welker (right) knocked Aqib Talib (not pictured) from the game on an off-field pick Sunday. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

It wasn't the hit heard 'round the world, but Wes Welker's 'pick play' on Aqib Talib proved critical in the Denver Broncos 26-16 win over the New England Patriots. During the first drive of the second quarter, the Broncos ran Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker on crossing routes. Welker put himself between Thomas and Patriots top cornerback Aqib Talib, freeing Thomas up and knocking Talib from the game with a knee injury.

Following the game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick understood the gravity of the play ("As it turned out," he said, "that was a key in the game"), but refused to pass judgment on the legality ("I'll have to take a look at it on the film").

On Monday, his opinion of the play couldn't have been more clear.

"One of the worst plays I've seen," Belichick said (via Mike Reiss) about the hit on Talib at his season-ending press conference. "The way that play turned out, I went back and watched it, which I didn’t have a chance to yesterday.  It was a deliberate play by the receiver [Welker] to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open.

"I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play, whatever they decide. It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. ... That’s all I’ll say about that.”

MORE COVERAGE: Pick play turns tide in Broncos' favor | Previewing Super Bowl XLVIII

Welker, of course, spent six seasons in New England, before signing with Denver last offseason.

After the game, Welker said he wasn't trying to injure or hit Talib.

"It was one of those plays where it's kind of a rough play and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided," Welker said. "It wasn't a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that. I hope he's OK. He's a great player and a big part of their defense."

Greg Bedard, of, detailed the controversial "pick" or "rub plays" in advance of Broncos-Patriots, noting that few teams ran those plays more than the AFC title game participants.

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