Injury keeps Aqib Talib from returning

DENVER -- For the second straight season, New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib was forced to depart the AFC Championship Game due to injury, leaving early in the second quarter with a knee injury that sidelined him for the balance of the team's 26-16 defeat against the Denver Broncos.

"[It was] very difficult," Talib said after the game of the injury.

Upon exiting, Talib went to the locker room multiple times, while also continuing to work out and jog on the sidelines in anticipation of a possible return. That never happened, however, as he stayed out of the game. After originally reporting it to be a rib injury, the Patriots later clarified it was his knee that was hurt.

"If I could be out there, I would've been out there, man," Talib said after the game.

Talib was injured on a play in which former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker collided with him on an underneath route in which no penalty was called.

"That was a key play in the game," Patriots coach Bill Belichick deadpanned after the game.

"I can't even remember how the play went," Talib said following the loss.

Without its Pro Bowl cornerback, the banged-up Patriots secondary was picked apart by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and his cast of star receivers. Manning had 289 of his 400 yards passing after Talib left and at one point completed 14 straight throws.

"It was very tough," cornerback Alfonzo Dennard said about the loss of Talib. "After he went out, they attacked. It was very hard."