FOXBOROUGH - In a press conference after the New England Patriots' Wild Card Game against the Tennessee Titans, a reporter asked head coach Bill Belichick if he had a message for the Patriots fans who had stuck by the team through thick and thin. All Belichick had to say was, "I wouldn't say it's been all that thin around here, personally." And I have to say, he's right.
The Patriots lost in the post-season over the weekend, eliminated before the divisional round in their campaign to defend last year's Super Bowl title. While the loss was obviously not what anyone was hoping for, I was a bit taken aback by the vitriol some Patriots fans levied against the team. They have a right to be disappointed, but I just can't help but feel nothing except gratitude for all the success the Belichick and Tom Brady era has provided to me, as a fan, over the years. There have been so many happy moments that I couldn't bring myself to feel so angered by the playoff loss on Saturday. I was glad Belichick said what he said.
That being said, the game was certainly a frustrating one. The Patriots should not have lost their second consecutive game at home with this loss coming to a 9-7 Titans team, but the latter, coached by former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel, got hot and the Patriots had too many flaws to overcome with an impeccable defense. That's the way it goes sometimes. Two Nick Folk field goals and a Julian Edelman rushing touchdown were not enough to overcome the Titans' three touchdowns, two of which came on offense. The final score was 20-13.
Of course, we now enter an off-season of complete uncertainty. The media has turned their attention to the idea that the Patriots dynasty might now be over as quarterback Tom Brady becomes an unrestricted free agent for the first time in forever.
Will Brady re-up with the Patriots if the team shows a commitment to surrounding him with talent? Will he leave the franchise he's played his whole career for to throw footballs at the age of 43 in California or Florida instead? Time will tell.
Robert Kraft wants Brady to stay. Brady thinks his retirement is unlikely and he's earned the right to do whatever he wants. If I had to make a bet, I'd say that Brady stays. (I certainly hope he does.) But I also predicted New England would defeat Tennessee. We're in uncharted territory here. Buckle up.
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