MINNEAPOLIS — If there was any doubt Tom Brady would play again in the NFL next season, the New England Patriots’ quarterback put those rumors to rest.
“I expect to be back,” he said. “It’s 15 minutes after the game ended, so I’d like to process this. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be back.”
Will is favorite target? Tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t deny a report he’s considering retirement.
“I don’t know how you heard that, but, I mean, I’m definitely going to look at my future, for sure,” he said. “I’m going to sit down in the next couple weeks and see where I’m at.”
Brady is signed through the 2019 season and is still playing at a high level. He completed 28 of 48 passes for 505 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots’ 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brady found himself as a receiver at one point during the game, and was wide open on a pass from Danny Amendola. The ball slipped through Brady’s fingers.
“Danny made a good throw,” Brady said. “I just didn’t make the play. IT was there to be made, but I just didn’t make the play.”
The weird image of Brady ambling downfield on a pass pattern came three plays after New England lost receiver Brandin Cooks to a concussion on a vicious but clean hit by Malcolm Jenkins in the second quarter.
Amendola’s pass required an over-the-shoulder grab and the ball fell off Brady’s outstretched hands.
“If you want to be world champs, you have to play in this game. We played in eight of them. … We just didn’t make enough plays when we needed to.”
Brady had made the late-game comeback a specialty in winning a record five Super Bowl titles, including last year’s rally from 28-3 down to beat Atlanta in overtime. He also led late game-winning scoring drives to beat the Rams, Carolina and Seattle.
The Eagles showed no sign of slowing Brady down on Sunday as he threw for a playoff-record 505 yards and three touchdowns, carving up the defense at will on a night when the Patriots did not punt once or turn it over until Brady’s late fumble with New England on its 33 with just more than two minutes remaining and poised for a comeback.
That’s when Graham beat Shaq Mason off the line and reached his left hand out for Brady just before he was set to throw. Graham knocked the ball loose and Barnett landed on it in what will go down as one of the most memorable plays in Philadelphia history.
“We said we needed a play,” Graham said. “If we got one more opportunity, we’re going to give everything we’ve got and I just so happened to get there.”
The fumble set up a field goal that gave the Eagles an eight-point lead and then the game ended when Brady’s desperation heave for Gronkowski in the end zone fell to the turf, sending green and white confetti to the field, emotional Eagles pouring out on the field and Brady on the ground in frustration.
The Eagles defense had offered little resistance for the first 57 minutes as the Patriots moved the ball on every drive, getting stopped only on a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and a failed fourth-down attempt one play after Brady dropped a pass from Danny Amendola on a trick play.
But the Patriots had scored three straight touchdowns to open the second half to take their first lead of the game at 33-32 and still were in position to win after Nick Foles gave the Eagles a 38-33 lead on a TD pass to Zach Ertz.
Graham and the defense made sure it wouldn’t happen, giving a defensive exclamation point in a game that featured a record 1,151 yards of offense by both teams, including 613 for the Patriots.
During Super Bowl week, when asked about his goal of playing into his mid-40s, Brady said: “I never want to be a detriment to the team. For me, as long as I’m playing at a high level, and I make the commitment to take care of myself year-round, then I’ll continue to play. I don’t know. Things change quickly. Anything can happen. But obviously, I want to keep playing. I love playing. And I love playing for the Patriots.”