INDIANAPOLIS - The man who presented the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday -- Hall of Fame receiver Raymond Berry -- believed that if a receiver could touch a ball, he should be able to catch it.If Wes Welker -- a player who will one day merit HOF consideration -- had caught a critical pass from Tom Brady late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI instead of having it glance off his hands, Berry might have been handing the Lombardi to the Patriots. Welker's drop of a high but catchable Tom Brady pass with four minutes left would have put the Patriots in field-goal range and allowed them to bleed the clock down on the New York Giants. Instead, the Patriots wound up having to punt and the Giants made history against New England. Again. Welker was disconsolate after the game. "It's one of those plays I've made a thousand times. Just didn't make it," said an emotional Welker. "The ball is right there. I've just got to make the play. It's a play I've made a thousand times in practice and everything else. It comes to the biggest moment of my life and I don't come up with it. It's discouraging."Asked if he felt solely responsible for the loss, Welker said, "Yeah. It hit me right in the hands. I mean, it's a play I never drop, I always make. Most critical situation and I let the team down."Brady explained the play thusly: "Wes was running down the field and it looked like they messed the coverage up a little bit and I threw it to him. He went up to try and make it as he always does and we just couldn't connect. He's a helluva player. I'll keep throwing the ball to him for as long as I possibly can. He's a phenomenal player and teammate and I love that guy."Welker is going to need a lot of support because the scapegoating has begun in earnest. In a minor moment of frustration that will gain huge traction, Brady's wife Gisele Bundchen reportedly said to taunting Giants fans at Lucas Oil Stadium, "My husband can not bleeping throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times."It wasn't a perfect throw to Welker. But the ball was extremely catchable for a player of Welker's ability. "I think he was a little worried about the safety so he threw it a little wider or whatever, but I mean it's right there. It hits me right in the hands. It's one I'll have to live with," Welker said."That play wasn't the end of the game," said Deion Branch. "There was so much stuff that went down throughout the third and fourth quarters. All of the plays were big, every play is important. Had I made the catch that was behind me (on the play after Welker's drop), that could have been a key third down but we didn't connect on it."Welker will be a free agent within a month if the Patriots don't opt to use the franchise tag on him. They are expected to. But Welker's drop -- like the interception that slipped through Asante Samuel's hands in SB42 that owner Robert Kraft still laments -- makes the negotiations for a deal that Welker's representatives want to be off the charts a little harder.
FOXBORO -- What could have been an awkward plane ride for Tom Brady and John Harbaugh was made less so thanks to a high school lacrosse player.
Brady and Harbaugh shared a private plane back from Michigan where Jim Harbaugh and his University of Michigan program put on an event for National Signing Day. About a year earlier, Brady told a room full of reporters that Harbaugh and his coaching staff should study the rule book and "figure it out" after hearing that they were pretty upset about the unusual formations the Patriots ran during their AFC Divisional Round win over Baltimore.
They may not have been on the best of terms.
"I was pissed off," he told ESPN's Ian O'Connor before the start of this season. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed. ... So yeah, that should never have been said."
But on the flight was Harbaugh's daughter Alison, a high school lacrosse player. When Brady took some time to share a few thoughts on competitiveness with her, he and Harbaugh found common ground.
"We had a lot of fun," Harbaugh said of the flight. "I don't know if he's talked about that at all, but we ended up sharing a plane ride along with my daughter and a couple of his people, friends of his. We just had a chance to just talk for a couple hours. And really more than anything, Alison got a chance to listen to Tom Brady talk about competing and what it takes to be great at what you do.
"And one of the funny things about it was, he was so nice to her. He gets off and they go, and we get back on the plane and we're talking, and she says something like, 'Boy, Tom really is a nice guy.' And I look at here and go, 'Tom?' I'm thinking 'Mr. Brady' would have been more appropriate. She said, 'He said to call me Tom.' I got a kick out of that.
"It was good. Lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he's accomplished. He's very tough to compete against. The best quarterback that's played, certainly in this era, without question in my mind. That's how I would rank him. And it's just another tough challenge to have to play against him."
DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.