Wednesday, April 16, 2014
(Continued from page 1)
New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich talks with the media in the locker room at Gillette Stadium on Monday.
New England Patriots defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick carries a trash bag of his belongs through the locker room at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday.
Belichick won't wait long to work toward that goal again.
He must decide whether to keep Welker, the NFL's leader with 672 receptions over the past six seasons, and Talib, who solidified the secondary when he was traded by Tampa Bay after the eighth game.
The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Welker this season and could do so again. They also could sign him to a multiyear contract, or let him go.
Will he be back?
"I'm not sure," he said in the losing locker room Sunday night. "I'm not worried about that right now."
Talib's return also is uncertain.
"We'll see what happens in the future," he said, "but I definitely had the most fun I had playing football in a long time here."
Not on Sunday.
Talib left with a thigh injury in the first quarter. Other defensive starters played sparingly with tackle Kyle Love leaving in the opening quarter with a knee injury and Jones limited by an ankle injury to two snaps.
The absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski was probably the costliest. He watched the game from owner Robert Kraft's box after breaking his left arm the previous Sunday in a 41-28 divisional win over the Houston Texans.
And Brady had his usual struggles against the Ravens.
"Baltimore's always been a tough team for us," he said. "Even when we play our best they're a tough team for us and they play very well."
The momentum began to shift Sunday when Brady mismanaged the clock and the Patriots settled for a field goal on the last play before intermission. In the second half, Joe Flacco threw touchdown passes on three of Baltimore's first four possessions and New England lost two interceptions and one fumble on three of its last four.
At the most critical time, Brady and his teammates collapsed.
But "there were a lot of positives from this football team," Belichick said. "We wouldn't have gotten to where we were without a lot of good, consistent performances from a lot of people."
More of them on Sunday might have sent the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.
"A season that's very much alive and with great hopes and expectations and energy suddenly crashes and it's over," Belichick said. "That's where we are today. It's stopped. It's over. We're onto next year."
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New England Patriots tackle Marcus Cannon talks on the phone next to a box of his belongings from his locker at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday.