Peyton Manning played extremely well on Sunday by throwing for 400 yards in Denver’s 26-16 win that put the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
It was pretty clear from the jump that he wanted to put Sunday’s AFC Championship Game on his broad shoulders.
Yet, Manning got a gigantic boost from teammate (and former Patriots wide receiver) Wes Welker, whose highly questionable pick of Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib helped swing the tide of the game decisively into Denver’s favor.
Much like last season’s AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens, Talib’s injury signaled a significant downturn for the New England defense.
Prior to Talib’s injury early in the second quarter, Demaryius Thomas had a one catch for 29 yards in a 3-0 game in favor of the Broncos.
Following the Talib injury, Thomas had six receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was straight up on his assessment of Welker’s questionable tactics on Sunday:
“It is a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib,” Belichick told reporters Monday morning. “No attempt to get open. And I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play. It’s not for me to decide, but it’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
Buffalo Bills safety Jim Leonhard called Welker’s play “a suicide mission” on Twitter.
It’ll be interesting to see how the league handles the Welker play and if they actually decide to do what’s right for business and pay attention to a tactic Denver (and Manning teams) uses moving forward.
How Super Bowl XLVIII will be officiated could go a long in determining whether Welker will be rewarded for his treacherous activity.