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The safety call for intentional grounding on a pass from the end zone on the first play of the game got the Patriots off on the wrong foot, though Brady wasn’t going to second-guess the official on a ball thrown long over the middle. The Welker play late stung the most, though Brady wasn’t going to second-guess a receiver who usually makes it look so easy the pair often seem to just be playing catch on the field.

Still, it’s got to be the one running through his head as he tosses in bed through the sleepless nights ahead.

Had Welker caught the ball, thrown just a bit high and behind him, the Patriots would have been around the Giants 20 with a two-point lead and the game in hand. Had he caught it in stride, the game likely would have been over right there.

“It came down to one play at the end of the game,” Brady said. “If we make it we’re world champions.”

A few minutes earlier, Welker had been in the same room, staring straight ahead with reddened eyes. If Brady wasn’t blaming him he was blaming himself, saying that it “comes to the biggest moment of my life and (I) don’t come up with it.”

But his quarterback still had his back.

Wes was running down the field and it looked like they messed the coverage up a little bit and I threw it to him,” Brady said. “(He) went up to try and make it, as he always does, and we just couldn’t connect. He’s a hell of a player. I’ll keep throwing the ball to him for as long as I possibly can.”

Four years ago in Phoenix, Brady lost his first Super Bowl in four tries in a game that was agonizingly similar to this one. Now he’s lost his last two and, instead of wondering how many he’ll win in his career, people will be wondering if he can win another one _ and finally reach that Montana-Bradshaw plateau.

“I’d rather come to this game and lose than not get here,” Brady said. “I won’t stop trying to get here.”

And a few minutes later he walked out of the stadium with his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, the dour look still on his face.

Not to worry, though. Even after a loss as heartbreaking as this, the odds still are pretty good that Brady and the Patriots will be back.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg