FOXBORO - Three hundred and eighty seven pounds of playmakers.
In the NFL, that doesn't sound like much. The New England Patriots, victorious here 20-10 over Carolina, appear driven to prove that the diminutive tandem of Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk will fuel a furious drive to the AFC playoffs.
Both the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Welker and the 5-foot-8, 202-pound Faulk took offense into their own hands yesterday, providing the plays and the stability this team needed to avert a three-game losing streak.
"Being a leader and really kind of stepping up," explained Welker, the clear MVP again yesterday with 10 catches for 105 yards. "You can't be a guy that's going to be 'rah rah' and then go in the tank and not play up to par."
On a team where the leaders continue to be thinned, either by adversity or injury or lateness, Faulk and Welker represent a lot more on the field than first downs.
Yesterday, with Laurence Maroney tap-dancing early and Sammy Morris putting the ball on the turf, Bill Belichick injected Faulk into the flow.
Averaging about seven touches a game, Faulk saw his workload nearly double, rushing 10 times for 58 yards with a TD and catching three passes for 17 more.
Each was vocal. Each played much bigger than their size would dictate. And this football team, searching for answers after back-to-back losses, paid attention.
"Wes is Wes. He's going to do what he has to do, get open, whatever it takes for this team to win," said Faulk, marveling at Welker staggering off the turf after a monster shot by Charles Godfrey. "That almost reminded me of one of those Hulk Hogan moves, when he gets beat down and the crowd starts cheering and he gets up and the place goes crazy. ... It got us moving."
It got them moving right down the field for what proved to be the decisive TD: a 5-yard Tom Brady to Ben Watson connection.
To Welker's credit, he keeps getting up, despite taking some savage shots both in the secondary and in the punt return game.
"I don't think I'll be too (sore tomorrow). I don't think I'll be too bad," he said. "There's a couple spots but overall I think I'll be OK."
The NFL leader now with 105 catches, Welker has had three straight 100-plus catch seasons, joining Jerry Rice, Herman Moore and Marvin Harrison as the only players in the game to accomplish that feat. Harrison had four.
"Those guys are obviously Hall of Famers," said Welker. "I've still got a lot of years ahead of me and a lot of plays I need to continue to make and continue to do well out there on the field."
With the poundings mounting, you have to wonder if he does have a lot years of playing left. Welker had several "Earl Campbell" type moments yesterday, summoning his will to get up over and over, only to come back and sting the Panthers.
The same hit watch has to be made for Faulk as well. Remember, this is a 33-year-old man with more than 12,000 all-purpose yards on the treads of his cleats. How long can he continue to be a go-to man and more than just a third-down scat back?
"If (the load stays heavy) oh well, suck it up and move on. Let's get it done," assured Faulk. "I have no choice. It's my job, I signed up for it. If (my body can't hold up) I should just get out."
Faulk's getting out is a blow that this football franchise cannot absorb right now. As Randy Moss pouts and swoons and Laurence Maroney shifts and darts from East-West to North-South with the weather, Faulk and Welker stand at the forefront.
With three games to play, all 387 pounds of heart will be crucial if the Patriots are to live on into January.