FOXBORO -- Wes Welker has been here before. People have criticized his height or his athleticism and the 5-foot-9 receiver from Oklahoma City has made each loose-lipped detractor look amazingly misinformed.
Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips accidentally added himself to the list this week. In the course of answering a question about Welker on Thursday, Phillips let one slip.
"Ah, Welkers not Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green," Phillips told ESPN.com, in response to a question asking if Texans corner Johnathan Joseph, who covered Green in their Wild Card game, might cover Welker. "Hes a good player, but hes not that big or a real athletic guy. Hes a quick guy that gets open on option routes. Texans defensive back Brandon Harris actually played him pretty good."
Welker said he paid no attention to Phillips' comments, but he exploded for a big game in New England's 41-28 Divisional Round win over Houston. He finished with eight catches for 131 yards -- his third-highest yardage total of the season.
"I'm really not too worried about that," Welker said about Phillips' comments from earlier in the week. "It's just all noise. I try to do my job the best of my ability."
In the second quarter, Welker proved his abilities include more than catching short routes over the middle. He streaked up the sideline and hauled in a 47-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady to set up Shane Vereen's 8-yard touchdown reception that made the score 17-3.
Brady and the Patriots must have liked Welker's matchups throughout the night -- as they so often do -- as he was targeted a team-high 13 times. He had a couple of drops, including one on a pass over the middle after holding on to a catch moments earlier on a similar play when he took a vicious hit. But Brady's confidence in his favorite target never wavered.
With tight end Rob Gronkowski out for the remainder of the postseason, Welker's significant workload will likely remain that way. He'll continue to take big shots from oftentimes bigger defenders, and he'll continue to be Brady's most trusted weapon in the passing game.
"Wes is a tremendous receiver, a great competitor," Patritos coach Bill Belichick said. "Again, we feel like at times there was a good matchup with him in the slot. He did a good job in there. Again, Tom made some throws. Wes is quick to cover. Tom had some good weapons to work with and he was able to move it around and get it to a bunch of them. I thought we had good balance offensively. Overall it was pretty good."
After Phillips made his comments on Welker and found that they were being perceived by many as bulletin board material for the Patriots, he posted on his Twitter account: "Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time. twistthataround"
It was something Phillips probably didn't have to do. Welker had been there before, through high school and then college and then earlier in his NFL career as he tried to work up the ranks. He was used to people commenting on his stature and his athleticism.
But at this point he's one of the best receivers of his era. His numbers stack up against any other receiver's. At this point he doesn't need criticism to get him motivated. He's great without it. At this point, like he said, it's just noise.
Right now, he's more concerned about what's next.
"It's one step forward in the right direction," Welker said of the win. "It's one thing done that we've taken care of. Now we're moving on to the AFC championship, and we'll get ready for that."