New England Patriots stunned by Tennessee Titans as rumors swirl over QB Tom Brady's future

The playoff loss came as many observers wondered whether this was Tom Brady's last season as a Patriot. He did little to end the speculation Saturday.
Image: Wild Card Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots
The Tom Brady era may be coming to an end in New England.Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

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By Phil McCausland

The New England Patriots lost Saturday to the Tennessee Titans in a 20-13 upset that marks their earliest elimination from the NFL playoffs since 2009.

The defeat in the AFC wild card game came amid intense speculation about whether this could have been quarterback Tom Brady's last season with the team — and perhaps even his last as a pro.

If it is to be the end, it wasn't how Brady or his fans at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, wanted to go out.

Brady's final pass was a last-minute interception returned for a touchdown by former Patriot Logan Ryan, although by then the game was all but done. The Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champs, were stymied by a Titans defense coached by their former teammate Mike Vrabel.

The Titans will hope for another dominant Derrick Henry rushing performance as they advance to face the No. 1 seeded Baltimore Ravens.

Brady, 42, saw his hopes of a seventh Super Bowl with the Pats fade into the Foxborough night.

The team has not renewed his contract, which expires at the end of the season. That has ramped up questions over whether the franchise star might retire or join another team next year.

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After the game, Brady said he loves the Patriots and threw cold water on the notion that his career might be coming to an end.

"I would say it's pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely. I love playing football," he said.

However, he offered little indication that his future would be in Boston.

"I don't know what it looks like moving forward," he said.

Bill Belichick, the head coach whose storied Patriots career has been intertwined with Brady's from the start, rebuffed a question about his quarterback's status at the postgame news conference.

"We just finished the game. We're focused on this game, OK?" Belichick said.

If Brady were to leave the Patriots but keep on playing, there could be a fair amount of interest from the rest of the league in spite of his relative struggles this season.

Brady, the Patriots' sixth-round draft pick in 2000, has set almost every NFL playoff record possible, including total games played in the playoffs — which hit 41 on Saturday.

Brady has 30 playoff wins, while the 11 other quarterbacks in the postseason have only 26 combined.

After Saturday's loss and nearly two decades under center in New England, Brady took time to praise the Foxborough fans.

"I personally appreciate everything they've contributed, not just this year but a lot of years," he said.

"Just very grateful for the experience playing this year for the team, this organization, and over the course of my career, too. I appreciate it. I hope I've always tried to do the right thing out there," Brady added.

"Who knows what the future holds? So I'll leave it at that."

CORRECTION (Jan. 5, 2020, 10:11 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated a comparison between Brady and other quarterbacks. He has 30 playoff wins in his professional career, compared to the 26 wins of 11 other quarterbacks in the postseason, not 11 in the league.

Dennis Romero and Associated Press contributed.