That was promising but hardly a guarantee of continued success.
“Guys only think about what’s going to happen the year that they’re in,” placekicker Stephen Gostkowski said, surrounded by trash bags and cartons filled with players’ belongings. “No matter what’s happened in the past it doesn’t mean that anything good’s going to happen in the future. Each year’s different.
“Coming in day one of training camp we had no idea what this team was going to be and you kind of feel your way through throughout the games.”
The Patriots started slowly with a 3-3 record. Then they won seven straight before losing to the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, 41-34 after rallying from a 31-3 deficit. They ended the regular season with two wins.
There were plenty of positives — an offense that led the NFL with 34.8 points and 427.9 yards per game and a defense that was second in the league with 41 takeaways.
Brady had his usual outstanding season, finishing fourth in the NFL with 4,827 yards passing and throwing for 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But against the Ravens on Sunday he produced just one touchdown as the Patriots were held scoreless in the second half.
The 13 points were their fewest since a 16-9 loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 20, 2009.
“It’s hard to win these games,” Brady said Monday during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. “Unfortunately for us, because we’ve had a lot of success, nothing means anything unless you win the last game of the year.”
Belichick won’t wait long to work toward that goal again.
He must decide whether to keep Welker, the NFL’s leader with 672 receptions over the past six seasons, and Talib, who solidified the secondary when he was traded by Tampa Bay after the eighth game.
The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Welker this season and could do so again. They also could sign him to a multiyear contract, or let him go.