Take your pick: Wes or Aqib? MORE: More Lakers laughs


Take your pick: Wes or Aqib? MORE: More Lakers laughs

In this corner . . .

One of the most prolific receivers in Patriots andor NFL history. He's 5-foot-9 and soon-to-be 32 years old. He's tough as nails, best buddies with your Hall of Fame QB and for the last five years has been at the center of the best offense in football. He also happens to be the man at the center of two of the biggest drops this region has ever seen.

And in this corner . . .

A 6-1, 27-year-old defensive back. A former first round pick with first round talent, but one that comes with all kinds of baggage. Still, there's no question as to what he can do for your defense. When he joined the team this year, the worst secondary in the league became passable. When he got hurt in the AFC Championship, everything fell apart.

I just finished reading Tom E. Curran's piece on the upcoming crop of Patriots free agents, and it's impossible to argue with his analysis of New England's three top priorities.

Sebastian Vollmer. Wes Welker. Aqib Talib.

For some reason, I want to put Vollmer in his own category here.

Why? I don't know. I just do, and I want to ask the question: If you could only bring back one of the other two guys, who would it be: Welker or Talib?

I'm really tempted to go with Talib, and to be honest, as much as I hate to type this, I think it has a lot to do with Welker's decreased reliability. This past year, in the aftermath of his drop in the Super Bowl, Welker let more balls go through his hands than we've ever seen. It got to the point where you could count on at least one drop a game, and last Sunday, that one drop was once again a huge factor in the Pats coming up short.

I write the above paragraph with unbelievable respect for what Welker has done, and total confidence that if he does return to the Pats, he'll be destined for another 100-catch season. But in the playoffs, when a shutdown corner (or at the very least a legit No. 1 corner) is so enormously important, and dropped passes are magnified 100 times over . . . Who's more important to the Patriots long term success?

Yeah, I'm falling victim to the temptation and going with Talib. In a perfect world, bring them both back. The Pats are a better team with Talib and Welker. But if there's only one, I'm in the corner's corner.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32


Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.