ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Wes Welker’s franchise records for receptions (16) and receiving yards (217) were certainly glitzy, but they weren’t enough for a Patriots victory yesterday.
Welker tied the New England record for catches (Troy Brown set the mark vs. the Chiefs in 2001) and set the one for receiving yards (Terry Glenn had the mark of 214 vs. the Browns in 1999), but he couldn’t rescue the Patriots against the Bills, who snapped a 15-game losing streak to New England with a 34-31 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
With everything presented to Welker, the record-setting day was deflated by the result.
“I mean, it detracts everything,’’ Welker said. “We lost the game. What should be a great, fun day of breaking records and all of those things is totally opposite. I think it shows we have a long way to go and we have to step up across the board and make plays and understand that we just can’t play like this.’’
The kind of play that Welker was referring to included dropped passes, interceptions, and other miscues.
Tom Brady relied heavily on Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski, as he completed 30 of 45 passes for 387 yards and four touchdowns along with four interceptions.
Welker and Gronkowski accounted for 23 completions, 326 yards, and two touchdowns each.
In the first two games, the Patriots relied heavily on their tight ends, including Aaron Hernandez. But Hernandez was out yesterday with a sprained medial collateral ligament suffered against the Chargers.
With Hernandez being such an active part of the offense, the Patriots needed someone to fill the holes. The opportunities were numerous for Welker as he scratched out a majority of his yards on short passes across the middle.
“It seemed like they were all coming across the middle at me,’’ Bills linebacker Nick Barnett said. “That was some work. We knew they were going to take him and make some plays. He’s going to come across the middle, he’s got a two-way go [route] adjustment, you just have to catch him and tackle him, that’s it.’’
Brady kept finding Welker over and over and over again. In the first quarter, it was a 14-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead. By halftime, Welker had more than 100 yards.
The Patriots were able to convert on fourth down twice on their final drive courtesy of Welker catches. Welker’s 13th reception was a 5-yard catch on fourth and 4 that moved the Patriots to the Buffalo 36. Brady ended the 15-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Welker on fourth down to tie the game at 31.
“Wes is always a big factor in the game,’’ Brady said. “He not only had a bunch of catches, he’s a great player for us. All those guys, we threw the ball quite a bit today. A lot of guys made plays out there, we needed each of them. I just wish we would have made a few less mistakes.’’
Welker said the Patriots need to be more consistent.
“I knew there were some opportunities and things like that, but sometimes that’s just the way the game is played out,’’ he said. “You go into it trying to catch as many balls and get as many yards for the offense and try to move the ball down the field and ultimately score. At times, we did that very well and at other times we didn’t.’’
Interceptions may go against Brady’s statistics, but Welker said everyone has to take responsibility for the miscues.
“I think the turnovers really killed us in the end,’’ he said. “We were able to do some good things out there, we moved the ball pretty well and things like that, but when we get in key positions we can’t turn the ball over and make some of those mistakes.
“We didn’t play very good complementary football with each other and the Bills came out there and played hard, kept fighting, and they were definitely a tougher team than us.’’