The Tennessee Titans shocked the New England Patriots by upsetting the defending champions at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
If this was the final time we saw Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels, and several other prominent members of the New England Patriots dynasty on the home sideline in Foxborough, it was a disappointing finale to say the least.
The 2019 Patriots started off this season red-hot, running off eight straight wins in a row and sparking talk of 16-0 all over again.
Then New England lost on the road to the eventual No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens, and all of a sudden these Patriots were exposed. New England went just 4-4 the second half of the season, dropping tough games to the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, but also inexplicably to the Miami Dolphins at home in the regular season finale.
Throughout it all, questions and concerns loomed over a number of key issues.
First and foremost, legendary quarterback and GOAT among GOATs Tom Brady is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his Hall of Fame career. Brady himself has acknowleged he has no idea what the future holds for him, and that should be a terrifying thought for Patriots fans everywhere.
Secondly, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has reportedly accepted the opportunity to interview around the league for several vacant head coaching positions. Should he leave, the Patriots would find themselves without their offensive guru at the controls for the first time since 2011.
Rob Gronkowski is presumably happily retired, so he won’t be walking through the locker room doors at Gillette anytime soon. Julian Edelman is still potentially dealing with a serious knee injury and lingering concerns around a shoulder injury as well. Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown are both long gone. And Sony Michel had a significant sophomore slump this year.
To top it all off, Robert Kraft is still facing legal pressure in his solicitation case from almost a year ago, and the Patriots as a team are expected to incur discipline from the NFL for their transgression in the recent Spygate 2.0 sideline videotaping scandal.
Moral of the story? Saturday night was a gut-wrenching way to close out what was once a very promising season.
It wasn’t so very long ago that these Patriots came into the fall with their sixth Super Bowl banner getting raised to the rafters at Gillette. Gordon got reinstated in a surprise decision from league commissioner Roger Goodell right before the regular season began, and then the Patriots scooped up Antonio Brown.
For a brief moment in mid-September, every Patriots fan in the world was on cloud nine.
And then it all slowly began to unravel.
The offense sputtered. The defense, once well on its way to rewriting history, showed susceptibilities against the run and against the more talented, mobile quarterbacks in the NFL.
On Saturday night, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel beat Bill Belichick at his own game. Vrabel exercised a loophole in the NFL rules – the same loophole Belichick himself used against the New York Jets earlier this year – to run off nearly two minutes of time in the fourth quarter.
As a result, the Patriots had virtually no time of possession whatsoever in the crucial fourth quarter when they badly needed some wiggle room to keep the chains moving and do what they do best this season: screens, end-arounds, and the short passing game.
Tennessee simply had the better players, the better coach, and the better strategy on Saturday night. New England surrendered nearly 200 rushing yards to Derrick Henry despite holding Ryan Tannehill to just 72 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Brady himself threw for 209 yards with one pick-six and no touchdowns. The interception return touchdown came late in the fourth quarter courtesy of former Patriot Logan Ryan – who almost had a pick-six earlier in the game, too.
Tennessee now travels to Baltimore to take on the Ravens, while the Houston Texans (who beat the Buffalo Bills in the earlier game Saturday) travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs.
The Patriots will plunge headfirst into uncharted territory this offseason – and a whole lot earlier than anyone expected, too.