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I know these games don’t count. I know it’s just the preseason. But, football is football. It can be physical whether you’re playing two-hand touch or playing in the Super Bowl. That’s why Wes Welker playing on the second game of the preseason on Thursday night is so remarkable, just seven months after a major knee injury.
Not only did he just take the field, but he ran the normal routes, finishing with two catches for 20 yards. His first catch was so typical: a six-yard route that had him darting across the middle of the field. His next catch, a 14-yarder, also seemed pretty fluid. While it should take him a while to get to game speed, he’s way ahead of where anyone could have expected him to be.
“Getting out there catching balls and getting hit was good,” said Welker, who has 346 catches during that span but was injured in January during the regular-season finale. “It’s a step forward. I’m not sure I’m all there yet.”
Perhaps inspired by Welker’s return, Brady was on point all game. Two years removed from his own devastating knee injury, Brady finished 8-10 with 85 yards and a touchdown playing mostly against the Falcons starters. Rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez, who looks more like a wide receiver, seemed to develop a good relationship with Brady, grabbing a four-yard touchdown before the end of the half.
The other rookie tight end, Rob Gronkowski, hauled in a touchdown of his own from Brian Hoyer, who directed two scoring drives.
Fred Taylor led the attack on the ground with 54 yards on 11 carries, including a nifty 28-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Sammy Morris played well in relief, netting 52 yards on just six carries, including a 20-yard score.
Brady’s arm and a well-balanced carried the Patriots to a 28-10 win. It may just be the preseason, but the offense looked like a machine. The defense, too, looks like it is improving. Matt Ryan drove the Falcons twice into Patriots territory, but had to settle for field goal opportunities each time, which is a testament to the Pats defense.
The Pats also grabbed one interception, with Jonathan Wilhite doing the honors. He’s part of a young and improving Pats secondary. Gone are the days of Rodney Harrison, O-T-I-S, and Asante Samuel, and in are the days of Wilhite, Pat Chung, Brandon Meriweather, Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, James Sanders, Brandon McGowan and co.
The Patriots take on the awful, awful Rams next Thursday.