CBS play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz expects Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker will be fired up to face his former team, the New England Patriots, on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game and not just because a Super Bowl berth is on the line.
“He is going to be highly motivated to be a difference-maker in this game because in the first matchup this season, he made an awful mistake in the overtime and he was the first one to own up for it when they got to the locker room,” Nantz said in a conference call Tuesday.
In overtime of Denver's 34-31 loss to New England on Nov. 24, Welker, a former Heritage Hall standout, stepped away from a punt, and teammate Tony Carter ran into the ball. The Patriots recovered, setting up the game-winning field goal.
“He knew he should have stepped up and made the fair catch,” Nantz said. “After the game, he went in and said, ‘That was my fault.' I'm sure it's not going to be lost on him on Sunday. He's not only going against his old team, he has a chance to atone for what happened in the earlier matchup this year.”
Nantz, analyst Phil Simms and reporter Tracy Wolfson will call the game at 2 p.m. Sunday in Denver. On the 1 p.m. pregame show, studio analyst Shannon Sharpe, a former Denver tight end, will interview the Broncos' receivers, including Welker.
Simms said he thought the Patriots might have an edge in the matchup with Welker because they know his moves so well, but added that Welker might provide information on the Patriots' game plan.
“I would think if you want to look for an edge in that kind of a matchup, it would go to New England because they know what he likes to do, they know some of his mannerisms,” Simms said.
“The other side is Wes Welker can give them a few hints on what is being said, what is going to be the goal for the Patriots' defense this week — to read Peyton Manning, hit the receiver every chance you get, grab them when you run by them ... Who knows what that game plan will be?”
In the conference call, the CBS announcers and executives were giddy about the quarterback matchup of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning.
“What you are watching here is two guys that will go down as two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time,” studio analyst Boomer Esiason said. “For us at CBS to have them on our network in this game in this Sunday is nothing sort of a perfect situation for us.”
Besides their success on the field, Simms said he admired the quarterbacks' toughness.
“Tom Brady, his attitude, staying on the field, the way he conducts himself with his football team mirrors his head coach. Peyton Manning, just to play the style of football he plays. ... Man I get tired of watching him, just all the work. And you got to remember he does that everyday in practice,” he said.