FOXBOROUGH — In his 13 seasons in the NFL, Patriots defensive end Andre Carter has been on the receiving end of enough crackback blocks to know how dangerous a hit can be to an unsuspecting player.
“Sometimes you get caught in the wrong place,” Carter said.
But according to Carter, when Broncos receiver Wes Welker knocked Aqib Talib out of the AFC Championship game Sunday with an open-field pick, it was more than a case of the Patriots defensive back getting “caught in the wrong place.”
“Unfortunately, that was nasty,” Carter said. “I’m sure the NFL will review that and see what they can do to rectify those particular plays. Fortunately, Talib was able to walk, but if it got a lot more serious, who knows what would’ve happened?
“If you step into the wrong place at the wrong time, it can be very devastating. It looked like it was intentional. But the NFL will review it and, hopefully, Talib will just heal and get ready for the following season.”
Early in the second quarter of the Patriots’ 26-16 loss, Talib was covering Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas on a crossing pattern over the middle when Welker, coming out of the slot position from the opposite side of the field, collided with Talib.
Talib injured his left knee on the play and went to the sideline and then the locker room. He returned to the field but did not play again. Afterward, Talib said very little about the play, and he was not in the locker room at Gillette Stadium Monday.
‘It’s not for me to decide, but it’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen.’
During his season-ending news conference at Gillette Monday, coach Bill Belichick scolded the former Patriots receiver in his opening statement.
“I feel badly for Aqib, the way that play turned out,’’ Belichick said. “I went back and watched it, which I didn’t have a chance to [Sunday]. I think it was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib.
“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. That’s all I’m going to say about that.’’
The legality of the pick play, which is used by both the Broncos and Patriots, has been debated hotly this season. On the possession before Talib’s injury, Patriots tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was called for offensive pass interference on a similar play, though Welker was not flagged.
“The things with pick plays in general, is one, of course, you don’t see them,” Carter said. “It’s a matter of how low it is, the level of impact, the level of force when that particular individual is doing it.”
Pick plays are becoming more commonplace, and Carter said he doesn’t have a problem with them.
“It’s not frustrating, it’s football and it’s part of the offensive scheme,” Carter said. “For a defensive end like myself, it’s kind of like the crack toss play. You just have to prepare for it.”
That said, Carter reiterated that there are better ways to execute the play.
“Was [Welker] doing his job? I’m sure he was, to a certain degree,” Carter said. “Do I think the hit could have been cleaner? Yes. People will say it was dirty and people will say it was nasty. I can’t really say it was uncalled for, but the play was unacceptable.”
Defensive back Devin McCourty, who lockers next to Talib, acknowledged the Broncos’ success at running that kind of play.
“Each team is different, but they’re good at it,” McCourty said. “They run that a lot and they do a good job of it. They don’t get called if they run it a certain way. It might get called one time, but if you run it seven or eight times and it gets called once, it’s a good play to run. Teams do a lot of that just to give guys separation and to open up the passing game.”
McCourty was on the field when the play happened, but he didn’t see it and had not watched the film.
When asked if he thought the play was clean or not, McCourty said, “It’s your opinion. You might watch it and think it was clean. Someone else will watch it and say they didn’t think it was clean.”
“[Belichick] has seen a lot of football, so I’ll probably go with what he says.”Anthony Gulizia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.