BY DAVE CAMPBELL
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The ball had just been whacked out of Tom Brady’s right hand at the worst possible moment for the New England Patriots, giving the Philadelphia Eagles the ball just before the two-minute warning.
Brady sat on the turf, resting his arms on his knees with a pose of resignation. Once he reached the sideline and plopped down on the bench, he lowered his head and stared down for several seconds .
This was surely not the end of his unparalleled and sure-bet-for-the-Hall-of-Fame career, but at age 40 there’s no guarantee this wasn’t the last time he played in a Super Bowl.
“It’s a team sport. The Eagles played a better game today,” Brady said. “They deserve to win. That’s why we’re not the champs.”
The fumble, forced by Brandon Graham and picked up by Derek Barnett, put the Eagles in position for a field goal that pushed their lead to eight points. Brady and the Patriots had one last possession, but his final heave from midfield was batted down to give the Eagles their first Super Bowl trophy with a 41-33 victory and drop Brady’s career record in the title game to 5-3.
The all-time leader with eight career postseason fourth-quarter comebacks, Brady wasn’t able to notch a ninth.
“We obviously didn’t make enough plays in the red zone and turned the ball over one time,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “If we have a turnover that leads to some points for them, and you fail to score a couple of touchdowns in the first part of the game, generally speaking against a really good team, it usually comes back to bite you.”
Brady already owns a healthy share of the NFL record book, but there’s a new entry that he and all of New England would prefer to erase. Brady became the first quarterback in NFL history to lose a game, in the regular season or the playoffs, despite passing for 500 or more yards, three or more touchdowns and no interceptions.
“You always hope you come out on the winning end of the shootout,” Brady said. “We didn’t win it today.”
Brady finished 28 for 48 for 505 yards and three scores and a 115.4 passer rating. He has two of the three 400-yard passing games in Super Bowl history, with his 466 yards in last season’s overtime win over Atlanta and Kurt Warner’s 414 yards for the St. Louis Rams in a victory over the Tennessee Titans 18 years ago.
“I’ve played in eight of them, and they’re all good games. Today, we had our opportunities,” Brady said. “Never really got control of the game. Never really played on our terms. Just didn’t make plays when we needed to.”
This was the second time Brady was voted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and lost in the Super Bowl, a contrast he also experienced 10 years ago.
In fact, the past nine winners of the Associated Press MVP award to reach the big game have lost. The others were Kurt Warner (2001), Rich Gannon (2002), Shaun Alexander (2005), Peyton Manning (2009 and 2013), Cam Newton (2015) and Matt Ryan (2016).
Brady led the league in 2017 with 4,577 passing yards, despite losing standout wide receiver Julian Edelman to a knee injury, so he sure hasn’t been slowing down. There’ve been reports of friction between Brady, coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, but any potential dysfunction didn’t deter him. He was all smiles during his interview sessions during the week, wondering with seeming sincere curiosity why there’s been so much media fixation on when he’ll ever retire. This one, though, had to hurt.
“No one is going to feel sorry for us,” Brady said. “We’ll evaluate like we always do. I’m sure everyone is pretty tired after a long year. That’s football.”
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