NFL-Brady retirement talk shifts into high gear after Buccaneers loss

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(Reuters) - The Tom Brady 'will he, won't he?' retirement debate shifted into high gear on Sunday as NFL fans wondered if the future Hall of Fame quarterback had played his last game after Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in a NFC divisional playoff.

Even in the days leading up to the meeting in Tampa it seemed everyone was trying to read the tea leaves about Brady's future.

Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians told The Tampa Bay Times that he would be "shocked" if Brady did not return for next season while ESPN reported that sources close to the NFL all-time passing leader said he is non-committal about playing.

The 44-year-old has said he wants to play until at least 45 and has offered no hint that he does not plan to honor the final year of his current deal that will pay him $25.4 million.

Based on his performance this season there would seem little reason for Brady not to return.

He played in all 17 games and led the NFL in passing yards with a career high 5,316 and threw 43 touchdown passes.

Asked about his future, Brady told reporters: "I haven't put a lot of thought into it. We'll just take it day by day and see where we're at."

Brady added that he felt great physically and brushed off a question on whether he thought the game might be his last.

"I was just thinking about winning. That's just kind of my mentality to go out there and try to win, give my team the best chance to win," Brady said.

Brady's fierce competitiveness, that has helped him earn seven-Super Bowl rings, including one last year with Tampa, was on full display on Sunday as he engineered a second-half fight back against the Rams.

Trailing 27-3 in the third quarter, the Buccaneers rallied to tie the contest with 42 seconds remaining on a Leonard Fournette nine-yard touchdown run.

But that was still enough time for Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford to work the ball deep into Tampa territory where kicker Matt Gay sealed victory with a 30-yard field goal.

The Rams advanced to the conference title game next Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)