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Aqib Talib's injury key to New England Patriots' loss

Wes Welker's most impactful play in Sunday's AFC Championship Game might not have come on a reception. New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib was sent to the locker room after taking a big hit from Welker and never returned.

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It was surprise that Welker was not called for pass interference on the play, as it appeared he hit Talib after Peyton Manning threw the ball to Demaryius Thomas. It was the second straight season that Talib was knocked out of the AFC Championship Game, and this time it was a devastating blow. Talib was the best last man standing on a Patriots defense that lost Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Tommy Kelly.

"As it turned out, it was a key play in the game," coach Bill Belichick said after the game.

Talib had the assignment of covering Thomas on a lot of early snaps Sunday. His absence due to a knee injury forced Kyle Arrington and rookie Logan Ryan into more significant action, and they didn't handle the snaps well.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the Denver Broncos' 26-16 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at midnight ET.

New England started the season looking like it had its best defense in a decade. By season's end, it was the same ragtag, overmatched bunch that often struggled to get stops in the playoffs. The Patriots gave up 507 yards, more than any other game in the Belichick era.

The Broncos also suffered two injuries in the game. Running back Knowshon Moreno suffered a chest injury and didn't return. Cornerback Tony Carter had a concussion and also didn't come back for Denver.

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