FOXBOROUGH — The missed opportunities are what quarterback Tom Brady said he likely would dwell on after the Patriots’ season ended Sunday in a 26-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. But there was one play in particular that seemed to stick in Brady’s mind.
It was a deep pass to a wide-open Julian Edelman in the first quarter. The Patriots were trailing, 3-0, and Brady overthrew Edelman, who, as he has all season, had found a soft spot in the secondary.
“That’s one that I think about, that could certainly impact the outcome of the game from my standpoint,’’ said Brady Monday during his final weekly appearance of the season on WEEI radio. “I need to hit that throw. That’s a throw that I am capable of making and I make nine out of 10 times, and I just didn’t make it yesterday.’’
Brady wound up completing 24 of 38 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown. His counterpart, Peyton Manning, guided Denver to a Super Bowl matchup against the Seattle Seahawks by completing 32 of 43 for 400 yards and a pair of TDs, with a quarterback rating of 118.4.
“When you get in games like this, where the margin of error is slim, you’ve got to make those plays, and I didn’t make it,’’ Brady said. “Sometimes it’s not turnovers that affect games, sometimes it’s missed opportunities, and I missed that opportunity.’’
An Edelman fan
With Edelman facing free agency, Brady seemed to lobby the organization on behalf of one of his favorite targets.
Edelman enjoyed a breakout season in his fifth year with the Patriots, making 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.
This, after the Patriots went out and acquired Danny Amendola (who did not make a catch in the AFC Championship) ostensibly to make up for the departure of free agent Wes Welker to the Broncos.
On Sunday, Edelman led all receivers with 10 receptions for 89 yards and caught a 7-yard touchdown toss from Brady that pulled the Patriots within 23-10 with 9:26 left in the game.
“He had an incredible season,” said Brady. “No one could have ever predicted what he could accomplish for our team. He was one guy who was just so consistent and dependable for us. I’m just proud of him because of his mental toughness and his maturity and his work ethic.
“He’s spent a lot of time watching over the last four years, and to finally get an opportunity where he could be an every-down player and the way he contributed to our team, especially in a game like yesterday where he made so many big plays for us, was great to see.
“He’s one of my best pals. I spend a lot of time with him. I’m just proud of him for everything he’s accomplished. He deserves the best.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick hinted that there could be some changes in the coaching staff, with all the opportunities that have cropped up in the wake of the head coaching changes in the league.
“How that will affect our coaching staff, I’m not 100 percent sure, but I don’t know,’’ Belichick said. “There could be something there.’’
Belichick was asked if one of his former assistants, Bill O’Brien, who left Penn State to take over the Houston Texans, had sought permission to speak to any of his current staff members.
“No, and I wouldn’t expect him to,’’ Belichick said. “Bill’s been in this situation. He knows what we’ve been doing the last three weeks. Bill, I’m sure, is very respectful of that. Of course, he wouldn’t bring up something that would interfere with our preparations and our goals.”
With the season over, does Belichick expect to hear from O’Brien?
“Look, there are a lot of changes in the NFL on the coaching staffs,’’ Belichick said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m just saying maybe it will affect us, maybe it won’t. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
“But is it a possibility? Sure, it’s a possibility. But I’m not even pointing to that organization.
“There are a lot of other organizations that there are going to be coaching changes on. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.’’
LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 772 yards and 7 touchdowns on 153 carries this season, followed by 166 yards and a franchise-record four TDs in a playoff romp over the Colts, hoped his late-season efforts to revitalize New England’s rushing attack proved his worth to the organization as he faces free agency. “I hope I meant a lot,’’ said Blount, who was held to 6 yards on five carries Sunday. “They gave me the opportunity of a lifetime here. Hopefully, things work out for the best for the both of us.’’ . . . Belichick returned to Foxborough with a lot on his plate, ranging from roster decisions on free agents, exit interviews, salary-cap management, scouting for the college draft at the Senior Bowl, and the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Asked if he had programmed any downtime into the offseason, Belichick replied, “Look, I’ll be OK. I’ll take all my frustrations out at Pebble Beach — see if I can hit the ball over the water instead of into it for a change.’’
Avert your eyes
Judging from an informal poll in the Patriots locker room, most everyone said they had no desire to watch Super Bowl XLVIII. “I don’t have much of a rooting interest, truthfully,’’ Brady said. “Those games are hard to watch. I don’t really see myself sitting down to enjoy a football game or watch it.’’ . . . Whom does Belichick like in the Super Bowl — Denver or Seattle? “Honestly, I didn’t even know who was in the Super Bowl until we landed [at midnight],’’ he said. “Two great teams. I’m sure it’ll be a very competitive game. They’re the two best teams. They were both No. 1 seeds. They were strong all the way through the season. They’ll match up in a couple of weeks. I’m sure it will be a great game.’’ . . . The Patriots signed seven players to future contracts: running back Sam McGuffie, receivers Reggie Dunn and Greg Orton, linebacker Taylor Reed, and offensive linemen Braxton Cave, Jordan Devey, and R.J. Mattes . . . Sunday’s game on CBS averaged 51.3 million viewers, ranking third among all AFC Championship games. The NFC title game on Fox averaged 55.9 million viewers, the fifth-most-watched of all conference championship games.
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.