ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - For a guy that's supposedly being phased out of the Patriots' offense and forced into free agency, Wes Welker certainly looks as if he's looking to go out with the bang.
The veteran receiver went over the 100-yard mark for the second time this year on Sunday, catching nine of the 11 balls thrown at him for 129 yards, as the Patriots raced to a 52-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Patriots trailed 21-7 in this one and were facing the unappealing prospect of finishing the first month of the season with a 1-3 record. But they scored 45 points in the second half and 31 in the fourth quarter to restore a sense of order to things.
The Patriots had two rushers over 100 yards (Brandon Bolden with 137 and Stevan Ridley with 106), and Welker's 129 receiving yards were complemented with 104 (on five catches) by Rob Gronkowski. It was only the second time in NFL history that a team put four players over the century mark in the two categories.
The rushing game did a great job of taking the pressure off the receivers for a little while, Welker said. But it's not as if the receivers wanted or needed a vacation.
"I don't think you really take the foot off the pedal at all as a receiver," Welker said. "Eventually, we're going to have to pass the ball and make some plays in the passing game. The running backs and the offensive line did a phenomenal job, and hats off to them. It really does make our job a lot easier when they have to think about the run like that."
Welker did have one negative on his ledger, a fumble after a 14-yard gain that was recovered at the Patriots' 21 with 2:15 left in the first half. The Bills made it to the Patriots' 4, but C.J. Spiller was separated from the ball by Brandon Spikes and Vince Wilfork recovered to keep it a seven-point margin at halftime.
"That was huge," Welker said of the Spikes strip and Wilfork recovery that saved his bacon. "Hats off to the defense or making that big play. It really puts you in position going into halftime, and being able to fight back in the second half."
Welker added a few more gold stars to his statistical ledger with the Patriots, bring his reception-yardage total with the team to 6,485, passing Troy Brown and taking over second place behind Stanley Morgan's 10,352 yards. He also extended his streak to 81 straight games with at least one catch in his games with the Patriots, and 98 overall including his time in Miami.
And he again proved himself a clutch player, catching five passes for 71 yards on three of the Patriots' second-half scoring drives.
"I don't think you ever really panic," he said. "You just go out there and play your game, go out there and try to score points, and let everything else kind of take care of itself. When you're down like that, you almost don't have anything to lose at that point."
The Patriots' inactives were Julian Edelman, Alfonzo Dennard, Matt Tennant (who had been signed to replace the released Kellen Winslow), Logan Mankins, Brandon Deaderick, Aaron Hernandez, Justin Francis ... The Bills' inactives were Tarvaris Jackson, Delano Howell, Kyle Moore, Kirk Morrison, Sam Young, Colin Brown and Ruvell Martin ... Donald Thomas started at left guard for Mankins ...
With 80 passing yards on his first possession, Tom Brady passed Kerry Collins (40,922) to take over 11th place on the all-time NFL passing yardage list ... Brady had his 48th career 300-yard game after finishing with 340 yards. He's eighth all-time and just one behind Hall of Famer Warren Moon ... The Patriots are now 83-15 all-time when Brady throws for two or more touchdowns in a game.
The victory was the 194th of Bill Belichick's career, moving him into sole possession of eighth place in the NFL and out of a tie with Chuck Knox (193). He needs eight more victories to move past Dan Reeves (201) into seventh place ... Rookie Brandon Bolden (137) and Stevan Ridley (106) both rushed for over 100 yards, marking first time the Patriots had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since Nov. 23, 1980, on the road against the Baltimore Colts when Don Calhoun (106) and Vagas Ferguson (100) accomplished the feat ... The Patriots had two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers for the first time in team history, and it's only the second time in NFL history that has happened. Green Bay did it on Dec. 28, 2008, when Ryan Grant (106) and DeShawn Wynn (106) rushed for over 100 yards and Donald Driver (111) and Greg Jennings (101) went over 100 yards receiving.