The Patriots played their first wild card game in 10 years on Saturday night against the Titans. It was their last NFL playoffs of 2020 since the New England upheaval, which stayed at 3 pm, 20-13, by Tennessee. With the win, the Titans advance to a sectional race at the Ravens next Saturday (8:15 pm ET, CBS).
With the loss, the Patriots will not repeat as Super Bowl champions. Instead, they will face many questions about whether their future holds more rings for coach Bill Belichick, with or without coach Tom Brady.
MORE: Where will Tom Brady play in 2020?
Here are the three most important wild card games on Saturday night in New England.
Tom Brady’s disappointing season ends with an uncertain future.
By all measures, Brady had a crazy 2019 season. With the calendar dug up to 2020 and the playoffs. (20 of 37, 209 yards, INT, no TD, 5.6 yards per attempt, 59.4 rating), but despite a few shots throwing the game, the game reflected its struggles from regular season to game sealing six to six seconds remaining in the game.
Now comes all the questions about Brady’s pending free agency. He wants to keep playing (and getting started) for somebody in 2020, but Belichick and the Patriots, probably looking to upgrade to the position, can’t be ruled out by Brady’s desire to move on.
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So Brady may have just played his last game as a Patriot at Gillette Stadium or anywhere. If he and New England are involved, he will be looking for a good training situation, some persistent offensive support and a team ready to win now. The results are endless, with retirement being the most unlikely scenario.
At 42, Brady did his best with a limited supporting cast and a compressed offense. For the first time in a long time, he is a highly dependent QB. Now he’ll get to choose how to come out as a six-time Super Bowl champion.
MORE: Ranking 2020 free agent QBs, including Brady
Derrick Henry’s production season continues with more money in his future.
Henry managed to win the regular season title (1,540 yards, 16 TDs) with 182 more yards rushing, 22 yards receiving and a TD against a typically weak Patriots defense. With the Titans era still alive thanks to its performance, it is delaying its crucial pending free agency. Tennessee has every intention of rewriting the soul of the offense and making Henry one of the highest paid backs in the game.
Ryan Tannehill is sure to be re-enlisted as the 2020 quarterback as the team moves on from Marcus Mariota, also a free agent. But Tannehill’s success in his resurrection in Tennessee was based on Henry’s power and play. Henry will be hard to stop for the Ravens in the sectional round.
Henry celebrated his 26th birthday by adding a few more dollars to his next deal. And he can push to have a 2,000-yard campaign with another big game when his team needs him next week.
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Mike Vrabel’s training steaks are more likely to be confirmed in his future.
Go figure: Belichick went down against one of his favorite former players, the linebacker / occasional hook that marked Mike Vrabel’s tight end. The Titans coach did his job better than Belichick on Saturday, working on a rough plan with Henry, backed by tough, healthy defense and excellent special teams led by Brett Kern.
Vrabel handled the watch well and proved himself in a second half destruction battle. It was good for all of Henry to go for a two-minute break to finish the first half, which eventually produced the crazy TD. He got his team to play at a high level, with the Titan Way getting the best of the Patriot Way he was formed from.
Many questioned the transition to Mike Mularkey’s shot after losing to New England after leading the Titans to their most recent playoff win in Kansas City. But Vrabel proved to be an upgrade, instilling a mental and physical stamina that allowed his team to surpass the playoffs and win the playoffs.
Vrabel will not be much of a coach this year, but he is a rising superstar in the profession as Belichick’s best defender.