FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Wes Welker drew double coverage, so Tom Brady threw deep to Randy Moss. The offensive line gave the quarterback plenty of time to launch the ball.

The result: a perfect arc that the fleet receiver plucked out of the night sky behind a single defender on his way to a 65-yard touchdown that symbolizes the Patriots record-breaking season. That one play set NFL single-season marks with Brady’s 50th touchdown pass and Moss’ 23rd scoring catch.

But there was a lot more to New England’s dynamic offense than that magnificent duo. They got most of the headlines – and a lot of help from their teammates.

Welker tied for the NFL lead with 112 receptions and scored New England’s first touchdown of the season. Laurence Maroney rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the last three games and scored its last touchdown of the 16-0 season. And the line allowed just 21 sacks on 536 passes, an average of 1.3 in 33.5 passes per game.

Those 300-pound protectors allowed Brady to heave his milestone pass that gave the Patriots the lead in the fourth quarter of last Saturday night’s 38-35 win over the New York Giants.

Brady praised his offensive coordinator for helping him set the single-season record, then kept gushing.

“Josh McDaniels has done a great job, and obviously, the way the receivers have played, the way the offensive line has protected,” have been critical, Brady said. “We’ve been sacked so few times, with as many times as we throw the ball, and it’s because the receivers get open, the line protects well, and we’re running the ball better now.”

The Patriots must wait a week to show off their attack again.

With the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, they have a bye this weekend and will play the following Saturday night against the lowest remaining seed among No. 4 Pittsburgh, No. 5 Jacksonville and No. 6 Tennessee.

“It’s been a special year,” Welker said. “We have had some good games and have been able to fight back and win some. It means a great deal. It’s been a long, hard season and you want to high-five all your buddies and then get ready for the next week.”

In his other three NFL seasons, the 5-foot-9 Welker had a total of 96 receptions and one touchdown catch. This season, he scored eight touchdowns, starting with an 11-yarder on the Patriots’ first possession of the season in a 38-14 win over the New York Jets.

Maroney started slowly, shared time with Sammy Morris and missed the fourth, fifth and sixth games of the season with an injury. Then Morris was sidelined for the season and Maroney got most of the carries. He scored on a 59-yard carry and had a run for 51 yards in the next to last game of the season.

Then he scored his second touchdown of the second half against the Giants, giving the Patriots a 38-28 lead with 4:36 remaining.

“I knew that our passing game was doing an excellent job this whole year,” said Maroney, a first-round draft choice in 2006. “If people were going to keep letting us pass the ball, then why not keep passing it? Eventually, it was going to come down to where we were going to need to run the ball and, hopefully, I showed people that we do have a running game.”

In the last three games, Maroney rushed for 306 of his season total of 835 yards.

Welker also benefited from opponents’ concentration on another player, Moss. The slot receiver found openings for short passes and usually squirmed his way to extra yards after the catch. Receivers Donte’ Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney also capitalized on the extra coverage Moss received.

“With him playing as well as he has, it’s made things a lot easier for a lot of the other players such as Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney, Stallworth and Gaffney,” linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. “He opens things up for us. It’s great that he’s played well this year but all of those guys have. It’s a great group.”

With a great quarterback who knows even he can’t do it alone.

“I love throwing 50 touchdowns because that means we scored 50 times and we scored a bunch of other touchdowns to break other scoring records,” Brady said. “So that’s cool for the offense to share in that.”

AP-ES-01-02-08 1821EST

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