This Is Not Tom Brady’s Epilogue

This Is Not Tom Brady’s Epilogue

Brady’s embrace of the New Age and his fierce determination to soldier on seem to have had repercussions. He was blamed first for freezing out and then for forcing the midseason trade of his backup and possible heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the San Francisco 49ers.

It became a distraction, and because Brady brought on that distraction, he got crosswise with his coach, Bill Belichick, who rules his team with a firm hand. How firm?

Belichick benched cornerback Malcolm Butler here on Sunday, the same Malcolm Butler whose goal-line interception of Russell Wilson three years ago delivered the coach and his team their fourth Super Bowl title.

Why? Belichick refused to say.

It would be foolish to write off the Patriots after this loss to Philadelphia in an extremely well-played game. But the strain was showing.

New England’s usually free-spirited tight end Rob Gronkowski acknowledged that he was considering retirement. He will turn only 29 during the off-season, but he has a long injury history, including a hit to the head in the A.F.C. championship game that sent him to the sidelines and threatened to keep him out of the Super Bowl.

“I am definitely going to look at my future, for sure,” Gronkowski said. “I am going to sit down the next couple weeks and see where I am at.”

Belichick’s staff will certainly undergo a makeover, too; in the next few days, the offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is expected to be named head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and the defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was officially announced as the Detroit Lions’ new head coach on Monday.

Leave it to Brady to sum up his and his team’s discomfort.

“Losing sucks,” he said. “If you want to be world champs, you have to play in this game.”

No matter what anyone thinks, he knows time hasn’t run out on him.

Correction: February 5, 2018

An earlier version of this article misstated the Patriots’ deficit at halftime. They trailed by 22-12, not 23-12.

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