Russ Spence

Commercial Pressure Wash Expert and PWI Admin
His dark suit jacket draped over his right arm, Tom Brady spotted his parents outside his locker room -- the losing one.

The comeback king who had just been dethroned walked slowly toward them. Galynn Brady gave her son a consoling kiss. The elder Tom Brady hugged his namesake, a fatherly gesture to soothe his son's agony.

Together, they walked down the hallway. Hovering overhead was a sign of the end of the game and, perhaps, of Brady's mystique -- a small scoreboard hanging from the ceiling with red numbers: Home 38, Guest 34 with the amount of time left, 0:00.

The New England Patriots fell short of the Super Bowl for the second straight season -- in part because of Brady's interceptions in both losses -- dropping the AFC championship game to the Indianapolis Colts as Peyton Manning, not Brady, led the winning drive in the last two minutes Sunday night.

"Even when we were up 21-3," Brady said, "You knew at some point they were going to come back."

That was the margin with 9:25 left in the second quarter. But Indianapolis scored on its next four possessions, tiring New England's defense with long drives. When Joseph Addai scored on a 3-yard run and former Patriot Adam Vinatieri booted the extra point, the Colts led 38-34 with 1:00 to play.

"We could have executed a little better in the third or fourth quarter," Brady said. "It should never have come down to the final drive."

In 24 games, he led the Patriots to victories after they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. He did that a week earlier in a 24-21 win over San Diego with two big catches by Reche Caldwell -- a 4-yard touchdown and a 49-yard gain that set up Stephen Gostkowski's winning field goal.

Against the Colts, Brady led the Patriots to two fourth-quarter field goals and a 34-31 lead.

It might have been bigger had Caldwell not dropped his second pass of the game while wide open. With the ball at the Colts 18, Brady quickly threw to him along the right sideline. But Caldwell took his eyes off the ball and the Patriots settled for Gostkowski's 28-yard field goal and a 31-28 lead.

Still, there was confidence before the final possession.

"With less than a minute with two timeouts left, I felt good," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said.

And why not?

Brady seemed to lead a charmed life. He had squired actress girl friends to glitzy parties. His face graced magazine covers.

More importantly, he was MVP of two of the Patriots three Super Bowl wins. In the first, a 20-17 victory over St. Louis, he had 1:21 and no timeouts left and led them from their 17 to Vinatieri's last-play, 48-yard field goal. Two weeks earlier, he rallied his team to a 16-13 overtime win over Oakland in the snow.

Although Brady was mediocre for most of this season's playoffs, he had time after the kickoff return gave him the ball at his 21 with 54 seconds left Sunday. He ran three plays before calling his second timeout -- a deep incompletion toward Caldwell, a 19-yard pass to Benjamin Watson and a 15-yarder to Heath Evans.

First-and-10. Ball at the Colts 45. Just 24 seconds left.

Facing an aggressive pass rush, Brady knew he had to throw quickly. He fired another pass toward Watson. But backup cornerback Marlin Jackson picked it off over the middle at the 35. He ran 6 yards, then went down on his own with 16 seconds left.

"It was over, that was my only thought," Brady said.

That errant pass left Brady with a mediocre stat line: 21-for-34 for 232 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

A week earlier, he wasn't much better -- 27-for-51 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. But the Patriots beat San Diego because, on the last interception, Marlon McCree fumbled with 6:16 left as he ran it back with the Chargers ahead by 8. Jackson didn't make that same mistake.

And last season, Brady threw an interception while driving for the go-ahead touchdown. Champ Bailey returned it 100 yards in Denver's 27-13 victory in the divisional playoff.

But he's still Tom Brady, the Golden Boy in the glamor position.

"He has shown the ability to go out and score at the end of the game," Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour said.

Brady did win his first 10 playoff games but is just 2-2 since then.

On Sunday, even he had doubts. Trailing by four because the Colts went for a 2-point conversion that had tied the game at 21, a field goal wouldn't be enough.

"You're backed up and time was an issue," Brady said. "It's not like you have 2 minutes and 30 seconds. You have a minute or less. And it was 49 seconds after one play. It's tough."

At least his parents were there to share the moment.

A moment unlike so many others they've shared.