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Welker caught a career-high 123 passes in 2009, but missed the Patriots‘ wild-card game against Baltimore after suffering a major knee injury in the regular-season finale at Houston. So he wasn’t around to help them out of a 24-0 deficit after the first quarter. The Ravens won, 33-14.

He missed two regular-season games and most of another then, but hasn’t been sidelined this season.

“It’s always tough when your team is out there playing and you’re not able to, especially in the playoffs,” Welker said. “We had such a good year that year and [I’m] wanting to help my team and things like that. I’m just glad it’s behind me. I’m glad it’s over and I’m in the position I’m in to be able to play in this game.”

In the first half of this season, the Patriots went 5-3. Welker had 66 catches, Gronkowski 44 and Hernandez 33.

Since then, they’re 9-0 and the production has been strikingly similar — Welker with 62 catches, Gronkowski 56 and Hernandez 50.

“I think we’re pretty balanced between the receiver position and tight end position and being able to run the ball, complementing that with the play action pass,” Brady said. “I think it’s a matter of making sure all those guys are complementing each other.”

That’s the challenge the Ravens must overcome to pull an upset.

“Their offense has got weapons everywhere,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “It starts with the quarterback and it runs through the tight ends. They can run the ball. They’ve got guys on the outside that can play and get downfield. It’s the most explosive offense in football right now.”

And don’t forget about Welker.

Primarily an over-the-middle receiver, he can make the big play.

In the season opener, a 38-24 win over the Miami Dolphins, he took a pass on the left side from Brady and outran the defense for a 99-yard touchdown, the longest offensive play in Patriots history.

“I only threw it 25 yards. Wes did all the work,” Brady said after the game. “When I saw him break away, that was awesome.”