Caserio: Welker's got his quickness back

175736.jpg

Caserio: Welker's got his quickness back

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - There were times last year that Wes Welker acknowledged he wasn't quite back to where he was pre-ACL blowout. But inthe face of the "Wes Welker, Miracle Baby!" propaganda that followed his return from a blown ACL, the fact he wasn't 100 percent was glossed over. The numbers early in 2010 showed it, though. He didn't have more than 70 receiving yards in a game until mid-November. And his lack of acceleration and ability to power through tackles was evident as his YPC total dipped. Only once in his first eight games did he have more than 9 yards per catch. But then he averaged more than 11 YPC in six straight games. His YPC in four years with the Patriots is 10.5. Welker's built on that progress in this training camp and that's caught the eye of Patriots' Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio. "Wes is having a really strong camp," Caserio said when evaluating the wide receivers as a whole. Asked for more on why Welker's seemed strong, Caserio added, "He always competes, always works hard. He looks like he's regained the quickness level relative to where it was (prior to blowing out his ACL in the 2009 regular-season finale). Wes works hard and he's been a productive player and looks confident. He catches the eye a little bit and done some things that look real good." Caserio spent a few minutes evaluating the Patriots' personnel at safety and Brandon Meriweather in particular, saying, "He's a player with versatility. He's played corner, safety, 'star' (that's the DB lined up on the offense's slot receiver).He's been productive. He's got experience. Is it perfect? No. Is he trying hard to get better? That's the most important thing. Each year is its own entity. You're looking for improvement over the course of time and I think Brandon's done that." Despite their work done at other employers, Caserio said the Patriots can't just presume high-level play from guys like Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth. "Until player is in your program and in your system you actually don't know until they actually start practicing," Caserio explained. "It's no different than Randy (Moss) a few years ago ... until the player is in your program and in your system, with all due respect to how they've played and how they've performed withtheir other team, itreally doesn't matter. ... You have an idea, just sort of a gauge, 'Here's what their skill set may be.' But until you have them under your control a little bit it's sort of hard to evaluate that. .. a player can only do what he's able to do."Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

A record-setting day for Tom Brady

patriots-brady-2-012217.jpg

A record-setting day for Tom Brady

There was no postseason clunker for Tom Brady Sunday. In fact, his performance Sunday was one of the best of his NFL record 24 playoff wins. 

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

Brady completed 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. His passing yard total is a Patriots postseason record. 

No. 12’s dominance helped Chris Hogan set a Patriots postseason record with 180 receiving yards on nine catches. Two of his grabs went for touchdowns, including a 39-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker in the second quarter. 

The previous Pats' postseason record was held by Deion Branch, who had 153 receiving yards in the Patriots' divisional round loss to the Broncos in the 2005 season.

Hogan’s performance ranks tied for 17th all-time in terms of receiving yards in a postseason game. The record is still safely held by former Bills receiver Eric Moulds, who had 240 receiving yards on Jan. 2, 1999 in a loss to the Dolphins. 

Hogan wasn’t the only Pats receiver to finish with gaudy numbers. Julian Edelman had eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. 

Game notes: Patriots 36, Steelers 17

Game notes: Patriots 36, Steelers 17

FOXBORO -- Notes from the Patriots' 36-17 victory over the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game:

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

-- The Patriots are headed to their ninth Super Bowl, most in NFL history. The Cowboys, Broncos and Steelers have each been to eight.

-- The Patriots are now 9-4 in AFC Championship Games, including 6-1 in games played in Foxboro and 5-1 at Gillette Stadium.

-- The Patriots are now 3-0 against the Steelers in AFC Championship Games, and 4-1 overall against Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

-- The Patriots are 31-19 in postseason games, including 20-4 at home (3-1 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, 17-3 at Gillette).

-- The Patriots won their 31st postseason game tonight, moving them past the 49ers into fourth place on the list of all-time playoff victories in NFL history. They trail the Cowboys (34), Steelers (34) and Packers (32).

 -- The Patriots' .620 winning percentage (31-19) in postseason games is now second-best in NFL history, behind the Ravens (15-8, .652). The Packers' loss today drops them to third (34-22, .607).

-- The Patriots have now won eight conference championships with Robert Kraft as owner, setting an NFL for most conference titles in the Super Bowl. Kraft had been tied with the Denver Broncos' Pat Bowler at seven.

-- Bill Belichick is now 25-10 in postseason games as a head coach and is in a tie with Bill Walsh (10-4) for third place on the NFL list of best postseason coaching winning percentage. Vince Lombardi (9-1, .900) is in first place and Tom Flores (8-3. .727) is second.

-- Belichick is advancing to his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach, most in NFL history. He had been tied with Don Shula at six. Belichick's Super Bowl record is 4-2, Shula's is 2-4.

-- Tom Brady had his ninth three-touchdown-pass postseason game, tying Joe Montana for the NFL record.

-- Stephen Gostkowski, who entered the game with 142 career postseason points, scored 12 points today and moved past Gary Anderson into third place on the NFL's all-time list of kicking points in the postseason. Adam Vinatieri (234) is first and David Akers (175) is second.