- Associated Press - Monday, February 6, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The eyes that watched Tom Brady’s pass sail to him were red. The hands that couldn’t catch it were clasped in his lap. The heart that has helped make Wes Welker a star was broken.

Blame me, he said. Blame me for letting a ball I always catch fall to the ground.

“It comes to the biggest moment of my life, and (I) don’t come up with it,” the New England Patriots wide receiver said. “Most critical situation, and I let the team down.”

One of the NFL’s smallest receivers at 5-feet-9 and its leading receiver with 122 catches wasn’t the only one who missed an opportunity that ruined the chances of coach Bill Belichick’s usually disciplined players of winning their fourth Super Bowl.


They lost to the New York Giants 21-17 on Sunday.

There was a safety on the Patriots‘ first offensive play. There were three fumbles by the Giants, but they kept the ball after each one against a team that led the AFC with a plus-17 turnover differential.

And there was a desperation heave by Brady on the final play into the end zone _ a pass covering more than half the field that bounced off several players in the end zone. After it bounced off the last set of fingertips and fell to the ground, the game was over.

So was the Patriots‘ last, longshot hope.

“The ball’s just floating in the air,” Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. “I think everybody’s holding their breath _ the crowd, the coaches, the players.”

The Patriots other two star receivers, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, were there with three defenders. The ball was tipped out of reach of a lunging Gronkowski, who was hampered by a high left ankle sprain suffered in the AFC championship game.

“We’ve completed a Hail Mary this year,” said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who won his second Super Bowl MVP award. “I was hoping there wasn’t going to be another one completed, for them.”

It nearly was.

“I felt like I was close,” Gronkowski said. “But close isn’t there.”

Added Brady: “We got to the 50, and ran out of time.”

The Patriots missed plenty of opportunities when there was plenty of time left, including those three fumbles. The Giants recovered two. And the one New England’s Brandon Spikes came up with was nullified because the Patriots had 12 men on the field.

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