Denver wide receiver Wes Welker didn’t need to be reminded about the last time he appeared in the Super Bowl.
Playing for the New England Patriots two years ago, the normally sure-handed Welker dropped a second-down pass from quarterback Tom Brady that would have picked up a first down with 4 minutes to play and likely iced Super Bowl XLVI.
Instead, the Patriots were forced to punt, and the New York Giants came back and beat favored New England 21-17.
Welker, who became New England’s career-receiving leader with 672 receptions during 2007-12, moved on to Denver as an unrestricted free agent in 2013 and caught 73 passes for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns in helping the Broncos reach Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday against Seattle.
He has tried to forget that dropped pass, even if Patriots fans haven’t.
“You know what? I don’t even think about it,” Welker said. “The past is the past, what happened, happened and I’m just looking forward to this one …I’ll treat this (Super Bowl) like any other game … you can’t sit there and think in your mind, this or that …
“I had one game where I set a record for catches in a Super Bowl and then I had another one where it didn’t work out as I expected. So, you just go out there and you play the best you can and whatever happens from there, happens.”
Actually, Welker tied the single-game record for receptions in a Super Bowl with 11 catches for the then-unbeaten Patriots against the Giants in in Super Bowl XLII. But, that, too, ended in a bitter 17-14 loss in the final minute, leaving Welker still searching for his first Super Bowl ring.
“I can’t imagine what that would be like,” Denver running back Knowshon Moreno said of Welker going zero for two in the Super Bowl. “I’m sure that would be pretty tough, to go throughout the whole offseason and get to the second season and finally get to the big game, and then losing that.
“But we’re a different team. He’s on a different team now, so I’m pretty sure he’s probably not thinking about it too much, but at the same time he wants to do the right things and we all want to do the right things just to prepare this week to come out with a big win.”
Though Welker said he doesn’t feel any added pressure to finally win a Super Bowl, but he realizes these opportunities are precious.
“You don’t take these moments for granted, that’s for sure,” said Welker, 32. “You have to have some luck along the way to get to this point, and we’ve had it, even getting the No. 1 seed and being able to beat two good teams (San Diego and New England) to get here.
“Whatever happens, happens and you just go out there and try to play the best you can.”
Welker might have added to his NFL-record five seasons of 100 catches had he not suffered a concussion on Dec. 8 against Tennessee. He already became the first NFL player to catch touchdown passes in the first five games of a season and the first to catch six touchdown passes in his first six games with a team.
And he became a steadying influence for the Broncos’ young receiving corps that had three other players — wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (14) and Eric Decker (11) and tight end Julius Thomas (12) — join him in catching 10 or more touchdown passes.
“The first day Wes came in, I just took it all in,” Demaryius Thomas said. “I saw him working hard, how he was on the field, off the field. The main thing that helped me with being with Wes was being in the meeting room with him. He’d help us on the field, telling us how to beat this guy with different leverage and then helping us with reading different coverages so we can go out on the field and play fast.”
Welker missed the last three regular-season games while recovering from the concussion, but returned for the playoffs and caught six passes for 38 yards and a touchdown against San Diego and four passes for 38 yards in the victory over New England in AFC championship game.
Welker also was involved in a controversial play in which he collided with Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, forcing Talib out of the game because of knee and rib injuries. New England coach Bill Belichick later called the hit deliberate, though Welker was not penalized on the play or fined afterward.
When asked his thoughts on Belichick’s comments, Welker said: “ I don’t really have any reaction. I’m just happy we won the game.”
It’s debatable that Welker, coming off a concussion, would deliberately stick his head into a player’s midsection, but Welker said it would take more than a concussion to keep him out of the Super Bowl.
“You want to be out there,” Welker said. “The Super Bowl, this is what you dream about. You’re going to be there, I don’t care what it takes, you’re going to be out there in this game.”
Seattle’s secondary has a reputation for physical play and putting hands on receivers, which could lead to plenty of downfield combat for Welker and the other Broncos wideouts in a battle between Denver’s top-ranked and highest-scoring offense in the NFL and Seattle’s No.1-ranked defense that has allowed the fewest points.
“We’ll just have to see how it plays out,” Welker said. “There’s always that mindset that they can’t call everything, so … you just have to deal with it sometimes. You’ve got to play through it and … run such a good route where they can’t hold you or do anything like that. So, the main thing is going out there and playing the best you can and we’ll see how the game is called early on and see how they’re playing it and try to be physical ourselves.”
“I expect to be effective just by doing what I do … by playing tough and making plays over the middle, trying to move the sticks and put us in position to score some points.”