NFL: Tom Brady-led champions New England Patriots dethroned by Tennessee Titans

The loss against the Tennessee Titans resulted in the earliest postseason exit for Tom Brady (holding ball) and the New England Patriots in a decade.
The loss against the Tennessee Titans resulted in the earliest postseason exit for Tom Brady (holding ball) and the New England Patriots in a decade.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP, AP) - Reigning champions New England were dumped out of the National Football League (NFL) playoffs by upstarts Tennessee on Saturday, the Titans taking a 20-13 road victory that could spell the end of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady's career.

NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry ran 34 times for 182 yards and a touchdown on his 26th birthday and former Patriot Logan Ryan returned an interception of Brady nine yards for a touchdown with nine seconds remaining for the final points to seal New England's fate.

"We were just locked in," Henry said. "We wanted it. It's a great win against a great team in a hostile environment. I'm just happy we could advance. A great team win."

Brady, a 42-year-old quarterback who is now a free agent, could not guide the Patriots to a second-half score against a Titans defensive unit overseen by Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel, a linebacker who won three Super Bowl titles with New England.

The Titans advanced to a second-round match-up next Saturday at American Conference top seeds Baltimore while Houston will travel to second seeds Kansas City next Sunday.

Both hosts had first-round byes.

Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson ran for one touchdown, threw for another and made a stunning play to set up Ka'imi Fairbairn's game-winning 28-yard field goal 11min 40sec into overtime as the Texans beat visiting Buffalo 22-19.

The National Football Conference playoffs begin on Sunday with Minnesota at New Orleans and Seattle at Philadelphia, with top seeds San Francisco and second seeds Green Bay waiting to see who they will entertain next weekend.

Henry scored on a one-yard run with 38 seconds remaining in the second quarter as the Titans edged ahead 14-13 at half-time, a margin they maintained until the final seconds as the game hung on a knife's edge.

Tennessee erased eight minutes of the fourth quarter with a failed drive then stopped the Pats on only four plays before forcing a punt and pinning New England at the one-yard line with 15 seconds remaining, setting the stage for the pivotal pick-off score.

New England's Nick Folk opened the scoring with a 36-yard field goal but the Titans answered with a 75-yard drive capped by Ryan Tannehill's 12-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Firkser.

 
 

Brady responded by moving New England 75 yards in 10 plays, the Patriots retaking the lead 10-7 thanks to Julian Edelman's five-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.

New England drove to the Tennessee one-yard line but Titan defenders forced the hosts to settle for a 21-yard Folk field goal 2min 16sec before half-time.

Brady said on Saturday night that he has no plans to retire, putting owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick on the clock to either re-sign him or watch the franchise's greatest player suit up somewhere else.

"I would say it's pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely" that he would retire, Brady told reporters. "I love playing football. I don't know what it looks like moving forward."

He completed 20 of 37 passes for 209 yards with no touchdowns.

He finished the game with a lower quarterback rating than Ryan Tannehill, who threw for a total of 72 yards in his first career playoff appearance.

It was the earliest postseason exit for Brady and the Patriots in a decade.

"I think we're all running out of time and chances, every year that goes by," Brady said. "I don't think I'm the only one in that category."