by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

If there is a world record for screaming the word “No” repeatedly, many New England fans took their best shot at it Sunday afternoon when receiver Wes Welker went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of the 34-27 season-ender at Houston.

The Patriots lost the game and much, much more yesterday, including Welker and the momentum they seemed to have gained over the past two weeks. Now they must prepare for the post-season undermanned.

Some notes regarding what could be considered the Patriots’ worst setback of their 10-6 season:

Blind, Dumb And Defense: What else can be said about a defensive unit that gives up 21 points in the fourth quarter? Or that allows former practice squad running back Arian Foster 119 yards on 20 carries, including his pushing several defenders into the end zone for the winning TD? Or that lets opposing receivers reach the first-down marker unabated on third-and-long?

Not much good, that’s what can be said.

Crown Julian: Don’t count us amongst those ready to name Julian Edelman the next Welker. Sure, the rookie deserves credit (10 catches, 103 yards), but he’s still several years and about eight thousand catches shy of Welker’s pedigree.

They’re in trouble, is what we’re saying.

Just A Matter Of Tom: Here’s my impression of your typical New England fan every time Tom Brady dropped back to pass: “Oh my God oh my God OhmyGodplease.” Sound familiar? I mean, it’s great that Brady could get into a rhythm and everything, but one major injury was all fans could handle for this week. Thank goodness he got out of that game in decent shape.

What’s The Rush? Not counting the success of Fred Taylor (seven rushes, 33 yards, two TDs), the Patriots’ run game failed to make much of a dent in the Texans’ front. Sammy Morris ended up with nine yards on seven carries, which works out to only about 1.3 yards per carry more than I totaled from my couch.

Butler Did It: Rookie corner Darius Butler returned a tipped ball 91 yards to give New England a 20-13 third-quarter lead. Would have been a bigger story if the defense had made a stop in the fourth.

All About Steve: Kicker Stephen Gostkowski earns a mention after hitting all his kicks, including a 51-yard field goal in the second. His effort gets illuminated in contrast to Houston’s Kris Brown, who had to deal with the humiliation of shanking an extra point and missing two kicks (as well as spelling his first name wrong).

No Return Policy: Despite a cast of characters almost as big as Ben Hur, the Pats averaged less than 26 yards per kick return Sunday (six for 156 total). This means that, if the kickoff reaches a few yards into the end zone, Butler, Matthew Slater, Isaiah Stanback et al should just take a knee.

Tom’s Hoyer: The maturation of Brian Hoyer continues, as the rookie QB acquitted himself well (eight for 12, 71 yards) and seemed to follow Brady’s lead in avoiding trying to do too much.

With hindsight, of course, we wish most of the starters had watched from the sideline. The Pats still would have lost, but maybe they wouldn’t have lost so much.

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