Sunday calendars are going to be a little emptier in January for Patriots fans. The team lost its Wild Card match up against the Tennessee Titans 20-13. Looking back, this one is going to hurt for Patriots fans. Not just because it means the team isn’t going to the Super Bowl, not because this is a loss against a team that didn’t clinch a playoff spot until week 17, but because now we enter the realm of the unknown.
The big question before the game and more so after the game was the future of Tom Brady, who in case you didn’t know will be a free agent on March 18th. He was fairly tight-lipped after the game except to say it’s pretty unlikely he’ll retire and Bill Belichick told the media that he’s not talking about the future. I’ll give Bill what he wants for the moment, and instead I’ll talk about the past and the Wild Card game that his team lost.
This game was against a Tennessee Titans team coached by former Pats player Mike Vrabel. He beat the Patriots at their own game from clock management to X’s and O’s. Typically, New England will make you beat them with your second target, virtually making your top target useless. Julian Edelman was cutoff from the offense only getting 3 receptions on 5 targets for 30 yards. He did have the jet sweep 5 yard run for the Patriots only touchdown of the night. The big problem for the Patriots over the past couple of months however is who is the 2nd scoring option?
I will have a hard time understanding why James White who won a Super Bowl with a reception didn’t take the field on a goal to go situation at the end of the 1st half. Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel saw the attempts that in the past would have gone to White. Forcing the Titans to play more and getting a man in motion would have given some different looks. That drive is where the game was lost, not just because of the play calling, but also because the Patriots had to burn not one but two timeouts.
Tennessee would answer back with a 7 play, 75 yard drive led by Derrick Henry who set a Titans record with 182 rushing yards. As many will remember for a long time, maybe compared to how the season in 2005 ended, Tom Brady was picked off ending a dynasty.
Now looking at the future. Many will have their ideas on what Tom Brady should and will do. Retire, play in LA, play in Cleveland, play in Dallas, come back to New England and so on. Tom will have to do some work on himself. Not because he’s in his 40’s and runs a 5.0 40 yard dash, but based on his attitude. Everybody has been saying that Brady needs receivers and needs help on offense. The Antonio Brown era didn’t go the way fans had hoped, but when the season started the WR corps included Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and Jakobi Meyers. Thomas and Gordon were traded leaving a rookie like Meyers to start with Julien Edelman. N’Keal Harry returned to the team halfway through the season, but he didn’t really have any time to practice with TB 12.
Brady has missed voluntary OTA’s in the past. This is a problem. He’s a six-time champion and has been to countless Super Bowls, but the parallels between him and Peyton Manning come into play here. When Peyton went to Denver he practiced and spent time with receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and eventually they were well in sync until Peyton’s arm couldn’t handle it. My personal opinion, Tom Brady will play somewhere else next season, maybe Carolina?
Tom Brady needs to show that he still cares, and that he still has a passion for the game. Anywhere he goes, he’ll be expected to actually show up to voluntary practices. If he wants to continue looking like Violet from Willy Wonka and pout until he gets what the era of Brady may have ended here in Foxboro. Words that no Patriots fan wants to hear but maybe like on Saturday night, we all need an eyeopener once in a while.