FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Wes Welker's collision Sunday with New England cornerback Aqib Talib "one of the worst plays I've seen," a sharp critique of the actions of one of his former stars.
Belichick delivered the comments roughly one minute into his news conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the Patriots fell to the Denver Broncos 26-16 in the AFC Championship Game.
Belichick's criticism was unprovoked, part of the coach's opening remarks, and stands as stinging commentary from a man who usually limits what he provides in a public forum.
"It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open," Belichick said. "I'll let the league handle the discipline on that play, whatever they decide. It's one of the worst plays I've seen. That's all I'll say about that."
The play that will now be talked about for years to come occurred in the second quarter Sunday. With the Broncos in the early portions of a drive that would put them up 10-0, Welker streaked through the middle of the field and smacked into a crossing Talib, who left with a knee injury and did not return.
Welker was not penalized on the play, but Belichick was not alone in his thinking that there should have been some sort of action taken, either then or in the near future.
Broncos coach John Fox said he had not heard Belichick's criticism but responded by defending both Welker and the play.
"I haven't seen the tape, I haven't seen [Belichick's] comments … I know that Wes Welker is a great player, high integrity," Fox said. "We were not doing anything with intent."
"When I saw it, just as a player in general, Wes, was he doing his job? I'm sure he was to a certain degree," Patriots defensive end Andre Carter said. "I think the hit could've [been] cleaner. I've been around a lot of football to see that.
"At the end of the day, it was a nasty play. We'll see what the league does."
Carter also labeled the play by Welker as "unacceptable," although he did acknowledge that plays of this variety are part of the game and something for which defenders need to prepare.
Others on the New England side agreed, almost hailing the play as a smart one until the league figures out a way to police the situation or remove some of the grey area between what is and what isn't a penalty.
Fox also pointed out that the Patriots run similar plays.
"We're not the only team by any stretch [to use rub-route plays]," Fox said. "In fact our opponent Sunday did the same thing."
Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty had yet to view tape of the play, but could see both sides of the argument.
"[Belichick's] seen a lot of football. so I might go with what he says, but I haven't watched it or had a chance to look at it," McCourty said before being asked if Welker had intent to injure. "I don't know. That's tough to say someone would do that, but I think all of us out there would do anything to try to win the game.
"Each team's different but they're very good at [the rub route]. They run that a lot, they do a good job of it. so it happens a lot. They don't get called if they're done a certain way, or they might get called one time and you run it seven, eight times and it gets called once. So it's a pretty good play to run."