Tom Brady will have to wait until next year for a chance at his fifth Super Bowl ring after losing to the Denver Broncos, 20-18, in Sunday's AFC Championship Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Brady and his New England Patriots came up short in heading to their second straight Super Bowl, as the quarterback's nemesis, Broncos signal-caller Peyton Manning, will be playing in the title game for the fourth time in his career.
Brady hardly had any time to throw the football against the dangerous Denver defense, which tallied 20 hits and four sacks. That in and of itself proved Sunday was not exactly smooth sailing for the future Hall of Famer, per Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald:
Brady: "It was a tough day, man, a tough day."— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) January 25, 2016
Jeff Darlington of NFL Network noted that Brady gave credit to Denver's pass-rushing duo of DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller:
Tom Brady: "They've got great pass rushers. It was tough for us to ever get into a rhythm."— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 25, 2016
The Patriots had to play from behind all afternoon. Combining the fact the Broncos never trailed with the relentless pressure on Brady, it was a constant struggle for the Patriots, per NFL Network's Kimberly Jones:
Tom Brady: "We never could play with the lead, we never could play on our terms, uphill battle all day." pic.twitter.com/qoJ3tKQIyG— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) January 25, 2016
But the final outcome may have been drastically different had Stephen Gostkowski not done the unthinkable: miss an extra point.
New England's historically accurate kicker missed his first extra point in 524 attempts in his near decadelong career Sunday, per NFL on ESPN. Had he made it, Gostkowski would've been kicking for the tying conversion rather than Brady going for two with 12 seconds left.
CSNNE.com's Phil Perry got this snippet from Brady, who insinuated Gostkowski can't be blamed for the loss:
Brady on Gostkowski: "He's a great player. He's the best. Everyone misses them at some point. There was plenty of football left."— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) January 25, 2016
A tumultuous year that included deflated footballs and a realistic chance at a perfect season came to a crashing end for Brady, in what may be the last time he faces Manning in a big-time playoff matchup. One person who might be happiest to not see the Patriots in the Super Bowl is commissioner Roger Goodell, per Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal:
And Roger goodell breathes a huge sigh of relief. No chance to hand Tom Brady Super Bowl MVP trophy and Kraft Lombardi trophy— daniel kaplan (@dkaplanSBJ) January 24, 2016
Despite many things going wrong for New England, the Patriots had a chance to win, and Brady did his part. If not for the outstanding play of Denver's edge-rushers, with Brady having more time to throw, the Patriots could just as easily be representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
But the Patriots' season ended early in Denver, as did their chance at the fifth championship in franchise history.