INDIANAPOLIS - No Patriot, at least visibly, took Sunday’s Super Bowl loss any harder than Wes Welker.
Welker, like he always does, put up solid numbers, catching seven passes for 60 yards. But one pass he couldn’t keep his hands on, a fourth-quarter throw by Tom Brady, would have put the Patriots inside the Giants’ 25-yard-line with four minutes left in the game and the Patriots leading, 17-15. It could have been a nail in the Giants’ coffin.
Instead, the Patriots were forced to punt, the Giants drove for a winning touchdown, and Welker was left to wonder what might have been, and not what was, a 21-17 loss.
“It’s a play I never drop, I always make. Most critical situation, and I let the team down,’’ Welker said after the game, eyes red and swelling with tears.
Welker was in no mood to discuss, or likely even contemplate, whether he’s played his last game for the Patriots. After five seasons with the team he’s about to become a free agent, but the Patriots could either place the franchise tag on him (which would keep Welker with the team next season), or reach an agreement on a contract extension. Welker has said he’d like to return, and owner Robert Kraft said the team wants him back.
That sort of business can be taken care of at a later date. For now, Welker seemed consumed with the one that got away. The pass, and the game.
“It’s one that will take a while to shake off,’’ he said. “That’s for sure.’’
Model of efficiency
Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, has had a difficult time staying out of the news in the days surrounding the game. An e-mail she sent to friends and family members before the Super Bowl surfaced asking for prayers and well-wishes for the Patriots’ quarterback. Now, comments she made following the loss take a few shots at the men her husband was throwing the football to. Welker might have had the Patriots’ most damaging drop, but he wasn’t the only one; Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch also had key passes fall to the turf.
“You have to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball. My husband cannot [expletive] throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time,’’ Bundchen said in response to taunts directed at her from Giants fans after the game. “I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.’’
Is it a record, or isn’t it? Reports seemed to indicate both yesterday regarding the Super Bowl’s television numbers. The overnight rating placed the Patriots-Giants game as the third-highest in terms of percentage of United States households watching the game, but the best in total number of viewers. According to early figures, Sunday’s game earned a 47.8 rating, just behind the 47.9 from last year’s Packers-Steelers Super Bowl, and the Giants-Broncos game from 1987. The highest local rating came from Boston (56.7), with host city Indianapolis second.
But in terms of total number of US viewers, Sunday’s game did set a record, with an estimated 111.3 million tuning in. That edged the 111 million from a year ago.
Ticket to ride
Instead of flying from Indianapolis to Boston with his teammates, receiver Chad Ochocinco spent part of yesterday morning in a Cincinnati courtroom, resolving a traffic incident from last July, when he was still a member of the Bengals.
Referencing court documents, Cincinnati media outlets reported that Ochocinco was cited July 21 for two infractions: driving with a suspended license, and having window tints on his 2004 Mercury that were too dark. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of failure to display a driver’s license.
Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Russell Mock fined Ochocinco $200, and told him, “I guess I would have had to issue a larger fine if you would have won last night.’’
Super Bowl marks
Records set in Sunday’s Super Bowl: most consecutive completions to start a game: Eli Manning (nine); most consecutive completions: Brady (16); most career passing yards: Brady (1,277); most career completions and attempts: Brady (127 for 197); most first downs passing, both teams: 33; most punts downed inside 10-yard-line: Steve Weatherford (three).