New England's top cornerback was removed from the equation early in the second quarter, when, sticking to Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route, he was hit low by Broncos WR Wes Welker and left with a knee injury. Belichick was his usual circumspect self after the game: "That was a key play in the game...He's a key player for us." After reviewing the tape, Belichick was less reserved, outright accusing Welker of trying to take out Talib.
In Belichick's opening statement to reporters today—notably, not in response to any question—he went after Welker.
Here's the play:
These pick plays have been increasingly controversial in the league this year, and no one uses them more often than the Broncos and Patriots. Greg Bedard had a great breakdown of the teams' regular season meeting, in which two offensive pass interference penalties were called on similar plays. By Bedard's count, each team ran six picks, or "rub routes."
What constitutes a penalty isn't always clear, but according to Mike Pereira, the no-call on Welker's pick on Talib was a good one. The hit occurred simultaneous with the ball reaching Thomas, so it technically qualified as a regular block.
Welker denied any intention, telling reporters after the game,
"It was one of those plays where it's kind of a rough play, and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided. It wasn't a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that."
For his part, Talib said he couldn't remember how the play unfolded or if it was dirty. Actually, he cursed out a reporter and tried to leave the locker room before a team official forced him to come back and talk. Over the line or not, Talib's injury was a killer blow for a Patriots team already decimated by injuries. Freed from New England's top corner, Demaryius Thomas racked up 105 of his 134 yards after Talib left the game.