ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The chilly New England weather and a stinging overtime loss was probably not the homecoming that wide receiver Wes Welker was hoping for.
Welker spent the last six seasons as a New England Patriot and Sunday night was the first time that Welker has played in Gillette Stadium since his departure in the offseason.
He came up with a pair of second-half catches that gave the Broncos first downs and extended drives. He would end up with four catches for 31 yards and two punt returns for 13 yards.
Before the game, the Patriots played a video tribute to Welker, something that he said was "very classy" and that he appreciated "very much." After the game, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick spoke to Welker.
"He came over and he was like, you know, 'Good job, we'll see you all again, I'm sure,'" Welker said. "They're a good football team. And we think we're pretty good, too. We've just got to play better."
Welker said he also had the chance to talk to some of his former teammates. He added that he already had closure from his time in New England, but a win might have added to that.
"Probably would have been a lot better closure if we would have won," Welker said. "But you know, you had a lot of good years here and things like that. I feel like I've had closure before and I've kind of moved on and we've got another big game this next week against Kansas City – got to move onto that."
Tamme Steps Up
With tight end Julius Thomas inactive with a knee injury, the Broncos called on Jacob Tamme, Virgil Green and Joel Dreessen to fill in. All three were targeted during the game, but it was Tamme that became one of Manning's go-to receivers.
Tamme led the team with five catches for 47 yards to go along with his first touchdown catch of the season. He also made a crucial snag on third down late in the fourth quarter, giving the Broncos a fresh set of downs.
For most of the season so far, Tamme has been making his biggest contributions on special teams.
"It's not always easy, but I enjoy what I've been doing on special teams," Tamme said. " feel like I've been making a difference for us there. We've got a lot of guys that are doing that – that are trying to do what they can to help the team win. Had a lot of fun out there tonight making catches and being able to make some plays. It just stings, it just stings when we're not able to finish it off – what would have been a really nice win for us."
Though the Broncos fell short in the overtime period, Tamme said that he was proud of the effort.
"It's obviously a very disappointing loss – playing lights out in the first half like we did and then third quarter, we just didn't play well enough as a team," he said. "We showed some fight in the fourth quarter – I mean, a team comes back on you like that and takes the lead on you at their place, and then we came back and tied the game again. Proud to be a Bronco, proud of the way we fought, we just didn't make enough plays down the stretch."
Miller Scores First TD
In the cold New England wind, linebacker Von Miller came out of the gate hot.
He registered the first score of the game when he scooped up a fumbled caused by Wesley Woodyard and ran it 60 yards to the end zone – the seventh longest fumble-return touchdown in Broncos history.
Two plays later, Miller beat left tackle Nate Solder and came around to sack quarterback Tom Brady, causing a fumble that Terrance Knighton recovered.
"I always want to play good," Miller said about his play after the 34-31 overtime loss. "That's what my teammates and coaches expect me to do, and surely myself. I expect to play good. It was a blessing to go out there and have nice production."
Miller would go on to sack Brady another time and finish the game with three quarterback hits and eight total tackles. Statistically, Sunday marked Miller's strongest performance of his season.
The third-year linebacker said after the game that he will be looking to carry over the things the team did well in New England and learn from the things that went wrong for next week's matchup in Kansas City.
"I feel like as a team, as a defense, we had a good week of practice – it was just tough," Miller said. "You can't really dwell on it. You just have to use it as a stepping stone and keep going. My teammates, I'm sure they feel the same way that I do. It was a tough loss. We'll get back in the lab. It's a long plane ride home. We're going to figure out where we went wrong and look at the good stuff and get ready for a good KC team."