Back in the 2007 season, no one could intimidate or bring bone crushing hits on the New England Patriots. But 2008, of course, is a different story. With the fear of the Patriots diminished by their Super Bowl loss and by the loss of Tom Brady, teams are less reluctant to take it to them. Wes Welker learned that the hard way against the Steelers, as he took a big hit while the Patriots teams as a whole was hit hard.
In the middle of the Steelers 33-10 win, Welker had a pass from Matt Cassel sail over his head. However, Steelers safety Ryan Clark was out to stop Welker from getting into a position to reach for the ball.
Lowering his shoulder, Clark took out Welker in a way that would have caused many other players not to get up.
Welker was able to get up from the hit, while Clark was immediately flagged. He may be fined for the hit by the NFL later in the week.
Welker was otherwise barely heard from, as were most of the Patriots. Welker already has more than 80 catches for the season, continuing the rise to fame he started last season. But he only had 4 catches to go along with that one big hit, as the Patriots offense was shut down most of the game.
The biggest plays involving the Patriots offense, other than the Clark hit, were the five turnover the Patriots gave up in the second half alone. After two straight 400+ yard games from Cassel, the Steelers contained them much more efficiently and brutally.
Clark’s hit was merely one part to the Steelers’ late domination of the Patriots, who gave up the game’s final 30 points. Losing for the third time in New England, the Patriots missed a chance to tie the Jets for the AFC East lead.
With the wild card race led by the Ravens and Colts, the Patriots could miss the entire playoffs if they do not win the AFC East. The Steelers, on the other hand, maintained a one game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North, and took over the second best record in the entire AFC.
With most talk about the Titans and Jets in the AFC, the Steelers returned to being talked about as a conference favorite.
The Patriots, on the other hand, have an uncertain path to even making the postseason. Clark’s hit on Welker was merely one of the ways in which the once-mighty Patriots were pushed around.
CBS Sports- “Welker, Patriots feel wrath – pain – of Steelers football” www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/11143041
Steelers Notebook- “Safety Ryan Clark apologizes for big hit” www.post-gazette.com/pg/08336/931941-66.stm
YouTube- “Ryan Clark Lays Out Wes Welker” www.youtube.com/watch