The New England Patriots ended their 2009 regular season by allowing the Houston Texans to score twenty-one unanswered fourth quarter points in a 34-27 loss.
Their bid for a third seed in the AFC playoffs was put second on their list to the possibility of meeting the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round.
LaMarr Woodley of the Pittsburgh Steelers called it as he saw it and it turns out that he may have been correct.
Did the Patriots sit their starters? For the most part, no.
Although five starters, including leading rusher Laurence Maroney, were inactive for the AFC East champion Patriots, Randy Moss and Wes Welker both started the game with Brady.
Wes Welker, New England's leading receiver, didn't make it through their first possession.
And Brady did sit out two possessions in the second quarter but more importantly, he sat out on the potential game tying final drive.
It’s hard for me to believe that New England could give up twenty-one unanswered points with a little more than ten minutes left. But they did. It makes me wonder if they were really in it to win it.
They needed to go into the game with their minds made up. I don't even think they knew if they wanted to win or not.
They played most of their starters but when things got tight they folded like a lawn chair. And all that got them was an injured starter and more than likely an early exit from the playoffs.
Without question they ended the game with fear in their hearts and minds.
Whether it was fear of another player going down with injury, or fear of a possible match up with Pittsburgh remains to be seen.
I tend to think it was a combination of both.
This leaves Pittsburgh hanging on by a thread as far as their playoff chances go.
The Pittsburgh Steelers did do their part over the past three weeks and that is all a fan can ask of their team. The rest is up to the football Gods.