Posted by Neil Paine on December 14, 2009
On Sunday, New England Patriots WR Wes Welker continued his remarkable 2009 campaign, snagging 10 Tom Brady passes for 105 yards, bringing his reception total to 105 so far this season. It was his second consecutive 10-reception game, coming on the heels of a performance against the Dolphins that made him the second-fastest to reach 95 catches in a single season, and it gave him the 2nd-highest reception total in NFL history through 13 team games:
Of course, Welker's terrific play so far in 2009 (he became just the 4th player in NFL history to have 3 consecutive 100-catch seasons, joining Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, and Herman Moore) has also allowed us to reflect back on just how insane Harrison's production was during his peak. First, he is the only player in NFL history to have four straight 100-catch campaigns. Also, notice that the difference between #1 and #2 on the list above, in terms of receptions through 13 games, is the same as the difference between #2 and #15! In order to catch Harrison's staggering record of 143 catches in a season from 2002, Welker will have to haul in 12.7 catches per game for the remaining 3 games of the regular season.
That said, the real gap between Welker and Harrison isn't anywhere near as great as it sounds from the raw numbers, because Welker has suffered a handicap in his pursuit of Harrison this year -- he missed 2 games early in the season. If Welker played at his current pace, but in 13 games instead of 11 (remember, Harrison didn't miss any games during his 2002 season), Welker would have 124 catches through 13 games, which is actually 6 more than Harrison's record pace!
Thanks to the 2-game absence, we'll probably never know whether a full season of Welker could have challenged or even broken Harrison's record, but we should still count ourselves as lucky to see two of the great possession-receiver seasons of all time separated by just 7 years.