Patriots Drop First-Round Playoff Game for First Time in 9 Years

Nora Toscano, Reporter

When the Patriots lost to the Dolphins in Week 17 of the regular NFL season, they were forced to play in Wild Card Weekend for the first time since 2009.  Many fans speculated that they would fall to the Titans. While they hadn’t been playing well, the Patriots have been known to step up in playoffs, so I was skeptical at the idea of counting them out.  Even if they weren’t playing up to their usual standards, they were still a 12-4 team.  

Bill Belichick and the Patriots are very  known for their halftime adjustments and second-half comebacks, which was best displayed by their comeback victory over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, after trailing by 25 points.  Because of this, when they entered the second half trailing the Titans by a single point, a Pats win seemed a certainty. But the Titans’ defense  held the Patriots’ offense to zero points in the second half.

Neither team scored at all in the third quarter, and for most of the last quarter, the score remained 14-13 with the Titans in the lead.  With a little under six minutes left, Titans’ coach Mike Vrabel, a former player for the Patriots, was faced with the choice to attempt to convert on 4th and 3 on the Patriots’ 34-yard line, try a 50-plus yard field goal, or punt.  He decided to punt, but not before killing one minute and 50 seconds with a delay of game penalty followed by a false start, a trick he may have learned from his old coach Bill Belichick, who was across the field complaining to the ref. 

When the Patriots got the ball back, Julian Edelman dropped a pass on second and short, and  they were forced to punt. The Titans then ran out more clock, punting back to Patriots with 25 seconds left and pinning them on the one yard line.  With nine seconds left and the score still 14-13, Tom Brady threw possibly his last pass in a Patriots uniform, which was intercepted for a pick-six by former Patriot Logan Ryan.  With the Titans leading 20-13, the Patriots failed to make a game-changing play off the kickoff and as the clock ticked down to zero. The Patriot dynasty had fallen to Ryan Tannehill and the Titans.  

Titans running back, Derrick Henry, celebrated his 26th birthday by becoming the first player to gain over 200 scrimmage yards against Bill Belichick.  His 204 scrimmage yards in a postseason game are the most in Titans history and the most in the NFL since Colin Kaepernick in 2013. Henry has been breaking football records since high school, though. He holds the national high school record for rushing yards.  In May 2019, his high school in Florida retired his jersey number in honor of his 12,124 yards and 150 touchdowns. He was also a USA Today High School All-American, Florida’s Mr. Football and Florida Times-Union First-Team All-Coast player in 2012. While at the University of Alabama, he won the Heisman Trophy in 2015 after he set the SEC record for single-season rushing yards and tied for rushing touchdowns.  

The game may have been Tom Brady’s last game in a Patriots uniform.  His contract ends this year, and while he said it was unlikely for him to retire, he’s offered very little insight as to whether he’ll be re-signing with the Patriots or wearing a different jersey next year.  

As of now, we’re faced with many questions.  For starters, what’s going to happen to Brady and how will this affect his team?  If Brady leaves the Pats next year, will Julian Edelman be enough to carry their offense?  After the 20-13 loss that will go down in history, fans are left wondering what next season will hold for Bill Belichick’s famed empire