The Titans started their drive with 2:16 remaining in the half. Their strategy was simple yet, apparently, impossible to stop: Feed Henry. The incredible back busted through the right side for 29 yards. Then came the two minute warning for Tennessee with the ball at New England’s side of the field.
After an incomplete pass, Henry’s number was called on the next five plays. Henry kept churning those legs for 11 yards, then nine yards, then three yards. The the Titans called a timeout with 47 seconds left. They wanted to get the ball into Henry’s hands another way.
Tannehill dropped back and threw the ball to Henry, and he was off to the races. Jonathan Jones saved what would have been a 23 yard touchdown by knocking Henry out of bounds. The next play, the Titans did something the Patriots had just failed to do; score from the 1 yard line. Henry leaped into the end-zone with 38 ticks left. The extra point gave the Titans the lead for good.
How those four minutes transpired completely altered the trajectory of the game. If the Patriots were able to come away with a touchdown on their drive, New England would have been up double digits. So regardless of the Titans efforts, the Patriots would have at least been up at the half.
Or, the Patriots defense could have picked up the offense and finished the half on a high note. Instead, they never even forced the Titans to a third down. The Patriots had chances to make plays on offense and defense in the second half to win this game. However, those two drives to close out the half ultimately were the difference in the contest.
While the Patriots have dealt with backbreaking postseason losses, this one feels different. And not just emotionally, but tangibly as well. Unless the Patriots and Brady reach an agreement before free agency, Brady will be an unrestricted free agent.
Brady was asked post-game about his future and did not give any concrete answers. However, it appears he will not walk away from football.
“I would say it’s pretty unlikely,” Brady said when asked if retiring is an option. “But (pause) hopefully unlikely.” Brady’s comments will be dissected over the coming months.
What we know for sure is that the Tennessee Titans just bounced New England out of the playoffs. This will be the first season since 2015 the Patriots will not be playing in the Super Bowl. This will be the first time since 2010 New England will not be in the AFC Championship Game.
If this was the last game with both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, it was the most dominant run in sports history. Since 2001 the Patriots have been the standard in the National Football League and in professional sports. They took everyone’s best shot every week and it was considered a catastrophic campaign if they did not reach the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady will forever be regarded as the best Boston athlete ever. While Bill Belichick will always be known as Boston’s greatest coach.
However, if this is the ending chapter, it was a tear inducing final act. Brady’s last throw was a pick 6 thrown to former teammate Logan Ryan. Belichick lost to his former linebacker Mike Vabrel. Brady and Belichick might be motivated to end their run together on a better note.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones