Tuesday, March 11, 2014
FOXBOROUGH -- Any one who thinks Tom Brady has lost a little bit this year got a quick reminder: when the game is on the line at the end, Brady is still one of the best there is.
Brady threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds remaining to complete an improbably 30-27 win over the New Orleans Saints. Brady and the Patriots took over on their own 30 with 1:13 remaining and no time-outs.
It took him 68 seconds to dissect the Saints secondary before he found Thompkins behind cornerback Jabari Greer in the left corner of the end zone.
It was the 38th time in his career that Brady has forged a fourth-quarter comeback victory. And it came after he had thrown an interception on New England's previous drive.
"Tom is a great competitior,'' said Bill Belichick, who moved past Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll into fifth place on the all-time list with his 210th victory. "You have to have a short memory in this game. You have to come back and make the next play. Look, we all have bad plays out there, every one of us - missed blocked, missed tackles, bad calls, bad throws, drops, whatever it is. But competitors keep coming back and keep competiting and come back and get it the next time.''
Brady was 5-for-8 on the winning drive, hitting four different receivers: Julian Edelman (23 yards), Austin Collie (twice for 24), Aaron Dobson (6) and Thompkins.
THE STANDS at Gillette Stadium began to empty out about 20 minutes before the winning drive.
The Patriots were trailing 24-23 when they faced a fourth-and-6 at their 24 with 2:50 left. Brady's pass to Dobson was dropped.
The Saints took over at the 24 aned kicked a field goal with 2:29 left to make it 27-23. That's when the fans began to leave.
Asked if the Patriots were trying to give the Saints a short field to score at that point, Belichick said the Patriots were trying to get the first down.
"It was fourth-and-6,'' he said. "If it was fourth-and-13 or something like that, we wouldn't have gone done that. But it was fourth-and-6 and we felt like we had a shot at it and I think we did have a shot at it. We just couldn't make the play.''
Brady said the team knew it would have to score again anyway.
"We knew if we missed it, they were going to hopefully kick a field goal like they did,'' he said. "And then we’d have another chance. I don’t think we were discouraged. We just said, look we’ve got to be better and we’ll get it back.''
Actually it took another defense stop to get the ball back. Brady threw an interception on the first play after the kick-off. Then the Patriots defense forced the punt that gave Brady the ball to start his game-winning drive.
Mike Lowe has covered the New England Patriots since 1999 for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and has had a nice view of their emergence as one of the NFL’s premier franchises.
He’s been at the paper since 1982 and has covered everything from a Little League World Series to the Summer Olympics. He is married to Tracie and they have three children and two grandchildren.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeLowePPH.