Wes Welker lay on his back deep in the Patriots end of the field, looking up into the December gloom and still clutching the ball under his arm. He had just been blasted by Carolina Panthers defensive back Charles Godfrey, the kind of hit that makes a stadium hush. Would he stay in? Would he get up? Welker stood, stumbled, and adjusted his face mask. Then, on third and 2, he walked back into the huddle.