OAKLAND, Calif. - The Bay Area has seen its share of great NFL quarterback-receiver tandems with Joe Montana and Jerry Rice putting up prolific numbers for the 49ers for years. Yesterday, the Patriots’ incomparable duo of Tom Brady and Wes Welker invaded the area.
With two touchdown passes against the Raiders in yesterday’s 31-19 win, Brady passed boyhood idol Montana for career touchdown passes with 274, moving to ninth on the NFL’s all-time list.
Welker caught nine passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, pushing his season total to 40 grabs for 616 yards and five touchdowns. Welker is on pace for 160 receptions and more than 2,400 yards.
“Nothing surprises me with Wes,’’ Brady said. “He’s the heart and soul of this team. He’s been that way since the day he got here.
“He shows up every single day being the best he can be. He sets a great example for every player, every veteran player, every young player, every coach of what he’s willing to do to commit himself to be the best that he can be for this team.
“He never takes a day off, he never takes a practice off, he never takes a play off - run or pass. It’s like that in practice. What you see in a game, is what he does in practice for us every day. And he never complains. He’s a hell of a player and I love being out there with him.’’
Through the first four games, Brady has made sure Welker’s work ethic has been rewarded. The receiver has been targeted 57 times, including 14 yesterday and 20 last week.
“You know every time I go out there I expect to do well and catch balls and move the ball and try to help the offense move the ball down the field,’’ Welker said. “That’s kind of my goal no matter what. So that’s kind of the place it’s taken the first four games.’’
Welker’s prolific stretch is hard not to notice.
“He does everything well,’’ said Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour. “He’s quick, he trusts in his route-running, he’s the Energizer Bunny out there. He’s a tough guy. He’s a tough cover for anybody. Him and Tom are on the same page.’’
Welker is now 21 months from the MCL/ACL injury that caused him to miss the 2010 playoff loss to the Ravens. He said that with the work he’s done he has proved he is beyond the injury.
“I feel like I’m past that [injury],’’ Welker said. “This is the best I’ve ever felt. This is the best I’ve ever played in my career.
“I think just my attitude toward the game and the work I put into it on a daily basis and understand that this is my job . . . just taking it very seriously and training and everything that I’ve been able to do has helped out this year.’’
However, Welker wasn’t so sure about being called the “heart and soul’’ of the team.
“It’s great and everything, but I think we have a lot of guys that bring a lot of heart and a lot of soul to this team on a daily basis,’’ he said. “And that’s what it’s about. The more guys we get on that wagon, the better off we’re going to be.’’