The Patriots' worst fears were confirmed Monday when the team announced quarterback Tom Brady will miss the rest of the season with a left knee injury suffered in Sunday's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Welcome to the Matt Cassel era -- for now, anyway.
"We feel badly for Tom about the injury," coach Bill Belichick said. "You hate to see anyone go down. Nobody has worked harder and done more for this team than Tom has, so it's a tough setback for him.
"I think we all just have to do our jobs. (Brady) played one position. He played it very well, and there will be somebody else playing that position now. I have a lot of confidence in Matt and everybody else to do their job, just like they always need to."
Cassel replaced Brady in the first quarter after the two-time Super Bowl MVP crumpled to the ground on a hit by Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard. For now, it appears Cassel will be the starter going forward despite rumors that the Patriots held a tryout for Chris Simms and Tim Rattay on Monday. Belichick strongly denied those claims Monday and expressed his confidence in Cassel.
"I think he's capable of handling himself in a lot of different situations because he's been through them," Belichick said. "It's not just chalk talk. It's actually going out there and doing it on the field and doing it in practice situations. I think he showed that (Sunday)."
Belichick wouldn't get into specifics about Brady's injury, though several reports Monday indicate the quarterback suffered a torn ACL. Asked if he thought Pollard's hit was dirty, Belichick said, "It doesn't really matter what I think," before comparing the play to the one by Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork last year that knocked Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman out of the game. Wilfork was fined $12,500 by the NFL for the hit.
"It's not the same, but there are some similarities," Belichick said.
The Patriots are understandably crushed by the news regarding Brady, but they've been through this before. Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour have missed games through the years due to injury -- or, in Bruschi's case, a stroke -- so they're confident they know what it takes to survive such setbacks. They'll soon find out.
"We've won a lot of football games around here," linebacker Mike Vrabel said. "That's not going to change."