FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's Sunday evening press conference was short. He answered five questions before bluntly axing the affair.
He was not a happy man.
'Do you realize you're 20-2 against the Buffalo Bills in your career?' a local television reporter grinned.
"It was tight today," Brady retorted. "I'm glad we came away with a win. We fought hard. We certainly had more opportunities out there to score more points, but we didn't and made a great play at the end -- a couple great plays at the end."
The Patriots did win, 37-31, but they may find bullet holes in their jerseys.
With less than eight minutes to play, the Bills crept uncomfortably close to New England's 34-31 lead. Brady's offense had a chance to drive down, burn clock, and steal back its breathing room.
They got to the Buffalo 2-yard line before Stevan Ridley was tackled for a loss. On the next play, he was whistled for a false start.
Second-and-9: A Brady pass to Deion Branch fell incomplete. Third-and-9: Brady missed Danny Woodhead badly, threw it in the dirt.
New England was forced to settle for a field goal. Buffalo has two minutes to score. To win.
"We're always trying to make good plays whether it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter," Brady said of the team's failure to close out the game. "We've got to play through 60 minutes; that's the goal every week."
He sat on the bench during that final Bills drive, head bowed under the weight of a missed opportunity.
"It's frustrating when we don't play as well as we're capable of," he said at the podium. "But it's part of the game and part of mental toughness to put those things behind you and to keep playing hard, and we did that so that's why we won."
It's easier to say why New England didn't lose.
There were 23 ticks left on the clock when Devin McCourty intercepted Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The pass was announced as intended for Buffalo receiver T.J. Graham, but that was as good as wishful thinking; McCourty just jumped and the ball landed squarely in his arms.
Touchback. Bailout. Whatever you want to call it, the play didn't make Brady want to celebrate.
But isn't a win a win? Wasn't that the quarterback's sentiment after New England snuck by the Jets in a 29-26 overtime victory?
"Were trying to win every week," Brady had said, October 24. "But whether you lose by one or 30 or win by one or 30, the record is the same."
He's not wrong. And he wasn't lying. It's just that, when those words were cast out -- calmly, confidently -- it was done so from the other side of the bye.
It's easier to accept ugly play in September and October because it's cushioned by time. The bad routes, forced throws, missed tackles, surrendered yardage -- all of that can be corrected over the coming weeks.
How many times did Brady say it himself?
'There's a lot of football left to play.'
There are seven games left to play now. Just shy of half a season. Wins are still wins, but as the weather gets colder, mistakes start to appear in patterns instead of as anomalies. A team's inability to strike a late-game deathblow festers, hangs on a team
And opponents can smell it.
"We had plenty of opportunities to do something about it way before I was sitting on the sidelines," Brady said of surrendering control in the final minutes. "I had an opportunity to do something about it 50 seconds before that and the defense really saved the day."
The Patriots may be grateful for last-minute heroics, but they don't want to make it a habit.
It doesn't suit Brady to be rescued.