FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After nine seconds in his last game as a New England Patriot, Tom Brady was still trying to figure out what went wrong. A moment earlier, in his last action on the Gillette Stadium field late Saturday evening, Brady threw a pass from its end zone that was deflected, then intercepted, and returned for a landing.
After Brady slowly walked to the sidelines, he sat alone and motionless on the bench, helmet on his feet on the floor. All around him, dozens of teammates and team personnel scurried at a frantic pace, a hectic dance triggered by the breathtaking end of a patriotic season that had gone badly. No one spoke or approached Brady, who coolly reached for a light blue tray to see the surveillance repeat. He leaned forward so that his face was close to the screen, but remained completely still except for a finger that slid across the screen.
When Brady finally turned his gaze to the scene around him, the last seconds of the Patriots' 20:13 playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans passed. New England has been around since the end of the second quarter, with the rugged return of Derrick Henry by the N.F.L. thundered, beaten for 182 express goods on 34 runs. Defending Super Bowl champion Patriots would be refused the search for a seventh Super Bowl record, which the N.F.L. Playoffs in the opening round by the least seeded team in their conference.
When Brady finally got up from the bench, he was still unaccompanied. Coach Bill Belichick, who had already said goodbye hastily, would not be hugged.
The defeat can signal that The beginning of the end for the famous Brady Belichick partnership, a combination that has made New England America's leading sports dynasty of this century. But after the game, none of the men was in the mood to think about the moment or its weight. 42-year-old Brady would become a free agent for the first time in his career unless New England signed a new contract. Since Brady was unusually vague about his future this season – and put his mansion in Boston up for sale in August – there has been much speculation that he could retire. But playing on Saturday was the only thing he talked about next season.
When asked whether retirement was an option, Brady smiled and replied, "I would say that's pretty unlikely, but yes, hopefully unlikely."
He was asked twice whether he should or should return to the patriots, and his answers were open to interpretation as he briefly referred to his past experience with patriots. Brady also had a questioning expression on his face as he spoke, which was completely unusual. Brady usually looked confident, as if he didn't know exactly what to say. Or maybe he hadn't decided.
Brady praised team owners Robert K. Kraft and Belichick and said he "loved the patriots".
"There is no one who has had a better career than me who is only with them," he said.
But when his future reappeared with the patriots a few minutes later, Brady said, “I was proud to be part of this team. I just don't know what's going to happen and I won't predict it. "
He added, "I loved playing for this team for two decades and winning lots of games. I always tried to do the right thing. Who knows what the future looks like? We'll leave it at that."
Belichick declined to comment on Brady's future.
Since the game was only the fourth defeat of the Patriots in the last 24 home games after the season, it would most likely be an unforgettable result in the team's history – unless it was Brady's last game with the franchise. New England skillfully mixed the run and pass and a few tricks, building a 13-7 lead in the middle of the second quarter. The patriots' offense looked fluid, diverse, and unpredictable – all things that hadn't happened most of the time in the regular season.
However, in the same section, New England faltered twice near the titans' end zone and had to make do with field gates, which proved crucial. The second time was particularly harmful as the patriots made their debut on the titan's 1-yard line.
Meanwhile, Henry shot 49 meters against New England in the first quarter and increased the attack to 100 meters in the second quarter before the game was interrupted. When Henry moved 35 seconds into the end zone in the second quarter, he gave Tennessee a 14:13 lead that he never gave up. The titans continued to control the scrimmage line and New England only crossed the 50-yard line once at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Though Tennessee has now won eight of his last eleven games, Henry said his team would enjoy his outsider status over the course of the postseason.
"That's how we like it," said Henry. “We want it to be difficult. we want it dirty. We don't want anything simple. "
Titan coach Mike Vrabel, who played eight seasons under Belichick, seemed to have required tactics from his mentor. Tennessee received 5-yard penalties twice in a row – a game delay and a false start – and burned 1:55 before the jump off, thanks to an N.F.L. Rule that the watch should continue to run after a penalty has been imposed.
The Patriots' last breath began on Saturday when a titan barge within the 1-yard line from New England was knocked out with 15 seconds remaining. Brady trotted onto the field and tried his 37th pass of the game and 11,614. His 20 year career with the patriots.
His throw bounced off the intended recipient Mohamed Sanu and landed in the arms of Titan's cornerback Logan Ryan, who plunged untouched into the end zone.
When Brady was later suggested to have his last passport as a Patriot or N.F.L. A quarterback, maybe a six, threw up his hands and shrugged Brady.
"It happens when you throw the ball," he said, grinning. "I wish it was a 99 yard landing. That would have been pretty cool, but it wasn't. "
In addition, Brady, who had predicted that his football career was probably not over yet, had dissected what he might have done differently in the play. It could be useful in the future.