JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Wes Welker swears he doesn't dwell on his costly drop in the Super Bowl two years ago that could have sealed New England's win over the New York Giants and made up for losing to them four years earlier.
"You know what? I don't even think about it," Welker said as he prepared for his third Super Bowl, his first with the Denver Broncos. "The past is the past, what happened, happened, and I'm just looking forward to this one and going out there and playing my best game and doing what I can to help my team win."
Welker said getting to the big game and coming up short two times is what drives him.
"I think it's the reason I get up in the morning in the offseason and even now," he said after helping the Broncos beat his old team for the AFC title, securing a showdown with the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.
Welker tied a Super Bowl record with 11 receptions for 103 yards six years ago but the Patriots' perfect season ended when Eli Manning threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left to give the Giants a 17-14 win.
The teams met again four years later in Indianapolis and Welker caught seven passes for 60 yards and ran twice for 21 more, but it was the catch he didn't make that haunts Patriots fans to this day.
The Patriots led 17-15 with four minutes left and were on the Giants' 44 when Tom Brady found Welker wide open 23 yards downfield. The pass, however, was high and slightly behind Welker, who got both hands on the ball but couldn't make the catch.
The Giants got the ball back and drove for the winning touchdown.
"Sure, I mean it motivates you during the offseason. It motivates you when you're working out, it motivates you through the year," Welker said. "Just that feeling of losing that game, I mean it's heartbreaking. It takes a few weeks just to get over it. It definitely sticks with you and motivates you for the future and definitely blessed to have this opportunity again."
Welker joined Peyton Manning in Denver in the offseason after six seasons with Brady and was Denver's leading receiver until missing the final 3½ games after sustaining his second concussion in a three-week span. He still ended up with 778 yards on 73 catches and a career-high 10 touchdowns. Wearing a bigger helmet to protect against further head injury, he's caught 10 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs.
He had four catches for 38 yards against New England in the AFC Championship and his hard hit took out Patriots top cornerback Aqib Talib on a pick play at the line of scrimmage. The next day, Patriots coach Bill Belichick suggested Welker deliberately tried to hurt Talib and complained to the league about it.
The NFL said no infraction had occurred.
Welker's teammates said Belichick was just using Welker as a smoke screen and a scapegoat to hide deficiencies in his team's defense and the fact that Welker's replacement in New England, Danny Amendola, dropped the only pass thrown to him in the title game.
Welker stayed above the fray, saying he was just happy to be back in the Super Bowl.
"I'm very blessed to have this opportunity again and that's all you really ask for," he said. "It's all you work for during the offseason is to get to this point and now you just want to finish it."