Brady tips cap to fans, thanks media after Bucs' playoff loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Let the Tom Brady offseason speculation begin.
Will he retire? Will he resign with the Buccaneers? Will he resurface with the Raiders, Titans or 49ers?
Will he return to the Patriots??
Anything is possible after Brady and the Bucs lost 31-14 to the Cowboys in Monday's wild card game. Brady tipped his hat to the crowd at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa as he ran off the field for what could be the final time.
"I'm gonna go home and get a good night's sleep, do as good as I can tonight," Brady told reporters after the game when asked about deciding on what's next. "This has been a lot of focus on this game. So, yeah. It'll just be one day at a time, truly."
He might have started filling out his retirement papers at halftime after he was shut out in the first half of a playoff game for the first time since the 2001 playoffs -- his first postseason start, also known as the "Tuck Rule Game."
It was evident early on that the Bucs' offense was going to struggle, going three-and-out on each of their first two drives of the game.
Brady then orchestrated a promising 14-play, 70-yard drive that concluded with him throwing his first red zone interception as a member of the Buccaneers. On second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Brady was picked in the back of the end zone by Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse on the first play of the second quarter. Brady told reporters after the game he was trying to throw the ball away but didn't get enough on it.
"That certainly didn't help our cause," he said.
Brady completed just 11 of 23 passes for 96 yards in the first half as the Bucs mustered seven first downs on five drives.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott -- who entered with one career playoff victory to Brady's 35 -- countered with 209 first-half passing yards to go along with two passing touchdowns and another on the ground as Dallas built a 18-0 halftime lead (kicker Brett Maher missed all three of his first-half extra-point attempts).
Brady didn't get the Bucs on the board until the last play of the third quarter when he connected with Julio Jones for a 30-yard touchdown pass, trimming the deficit to 24-6.
Brady overthrew Chris Godwin on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt as the Cowboys got away with a defensive holding call in the end zone.
With Tampa Bay at the Dallas 2-yard line while trailing 31-6 in the fourth quarter, Brady was sacked by Johnathan Hankins for a loss of nine yards and then nearly brought down again on fourth down before throwing the ball away for a turnover on downs.
Brady added a late eight-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate and followed with a successful two-point conversion to Mike Evans to make it 31-14 with just over two minutes remaining. After the Bucs recovered an onside kick, Brady just barely missed Evans on a deep ball down the sideline during Tampa Bay's final threat.
Brady finished 35-for-66 for 351 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in what was the second-most lopsided playoff loss of his career.
"Always tough, but we didn't earn it, they did," Brady said. "I think there's a part of football where sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time the team that earns it wins."
It was also Brady's first loss to the Cowboys in his 23-year career, leaving the Vikings, Buccaneers and Patriots as the teams yet to defeat him. He entered 7-0 against Dallas, going 5-0 with the Patriots and 2-0 with the Bucs, including a 19-3 road victory in the 2022 season opener.
What followed was an underwhelming season for the Bucs, who went 8-9 as Brady finished with a losing record for the first time in his career. It was capped with a disappointing playoff cameo, after which Brady walked off the field for what could be the final time in a Buccaneers jersey. Or any jersey, for that matter.
Brady, who turns 46 in August, will become an unrestricted free agent after the season. He'll have decisions to make and options to choose, including a 10-year, $375 million deal with FOX Sports that waits for him "immediately" after he is done playing.
Brady thanked the Tampa media after the game during what could prove to be a farewell.
"I love this organization, it's a great place to be," Brady said. "Thank you everybody for welcoming me. All you regulars, I'm just very grateful for the respect, and I hope I gave the same thing back to you guys. So, thank you very much."