La Canfora: History denied ... again
"We just came up a little bit short," Brady said. "There were some missed opportunities out there. It was a very hard-fought game. We fought `til the end. I'm very proud of that."
The play that stood out among the missed chances was an incompletion from Brady to a wide-open Wes Welker with just over four minutes remaining. On second-and-11 from the Giants' 44-yard line, Brady found Welker running the seam on the left side and delivered a pass to the leaping receiver, who got both hands on the ball but came down empty-handed.
After the game, an emotional Welker sat at a podium and stared straight ahead. His eyes were red. His hands were folded in his lap. In the end, Welker put the blame on himself.
"We had an opportunity. The ball is right there," Welker explained. "I just have to make the play. It's a play I've made 1,000 times. Then, in the biggest moment of my life, I don't come up with it. It's discouraging."
"It hit me right in the hands," he added. "It's a play I never drop, I always make. In the most critical situation, I let the team down."
Welker is Brady's most reliable receiver and led the NFL with 122 receptions during the regular season.
"He's a hell of a player," Brady said. "I'll keep throwing it to him as long as I can."
The Patriots had plenty of other wasted opportunities, including one last chance. With five seconds remaining, Brady threw a desperation pass half the length of the field into the end zone. Aaron Hernandez went up among three defenders, and the ball was tipped, but it was just out of the reach of a lunging Rob Gronkowski as the ball fell to the ground and time ran out.
"It was a jump-ball play," Gronkowski explained. "Aaron Hernandez did a good job of tipping it. We almost had it, but almost isn't good enough."
The Patriots forced two fumbles, but the Giants kept the ball after each one. The worst of those missed chances came when Brandon Spikes recovered a fumble by Victor Cruz with 4:14 left in the first quarter. But the Patriots were penalized for having 12 men on the field. That gave New York the ball at the New England 6.
"Those plays like that don't happen too often in a game and we didn't capitalize on the opportunities," wide receiver Deion Branch said.
"That's what it comes down to in football, it's one play," Brady said. "You look at our game four years ago, it was a miracle play that they make. Today, we had a chance to make one of those and didn't come up with it. It always comes down to one or two plays in this game. If you make it, you're celebrating. If you don't, you don't sleep for a week."
The Associated Press contributed to this report