INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hunched over at his locker, still wearing his full uniform and covering his head with a towel, completely despondent after losing his second Super Bowl in the last five seasons.
He eventually stood up and walked to the shower with no discernible emotion on his face.
Brady was in complete disbelief as his Patriots fell to the Giants, 21-17, in Super Bowl XLVI. They were a minute away once again. Or just a few inches shy of a miraculous Hail Mary completion to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Or a drop by wide receiver Wes Welker. A throw here. A catch there. A friendly bounce on one of the Giants' three fumbles. The Patriots, as they say after just about every loss, didn't make enough plays.
"We just came up a little bit short," Brady said. "I think we had a couple of missed opportunities out there. Each guy in the locker room wishes he could have done a little bit more, and maybe the outcome would have been a little bit different. It was a very hard-fought game, and we fought until the end. I'm very proud of that. I'd say we just came up a little short."
The Patriots recovered from a 9-0 deficit in the first quarter to take a 17-9 lead in the third. At that point, they had completely taken over the game, but things went south after that. After a pair of field goals, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw scored the game-winning touchdown with 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
As a result, the players were full of emotion after the game. Welker was especially hard on himself for a drop on the Patriots' second-to-last possession, but he was among the slew of players who blamed themselves for the game's result.
Cornerback Kyle Arrington even said he apologized to Patriots owner Robert Kraft for coming up short for his late wife, Myra.
The accountability was there for the most part, sans defensive lineman Vince Wilfork and left tackle Matt Light, who didn't speak to the media. But this was another tough outcome for a New England team that was a play or two away from claiming the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title.
"I never want to feel like this again," linebacker Brandon Spikes said. "This feels terrible. It's a nightmare right now."