FOXBOROUGH – Kenbrell Thompkins wasn’t going to let go of the football. He walked through the New England Patriots locker room with a ball tucked into his right arm.

The ball, actually. The ball that he caught from Tom Brady with five seconds remaining for a game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass in a stunning 30-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.

That Thompkins was the receiver on the play probably surprised a lot of people. The rookie from Cincinnati has dropped his share of passes from Brady this year. He wasn’t letting this one go.

“Just excitement,” he said, when asked how it felt. “More excitement for my team, not necessarily for me, but for my team. I know we work so hard. We had a tough week of practice and going out there and making that play for my team definitely meant a lot to me.”

Thompkins is a curious player, capable of making outstanding catches, yet able to drop those right in his hands. But the Patriots have never lost confidence in him.

“KT has played good for us since we started the OTAs,” said Bill Belichick, referring to the team’s offseason workouts. “He’s made plays and catches like that in practice. We have a lot of confidence in him, Obviously Tom did, because he went to him. He gave him a good high ball and KT has good timing.

“He was able to go up and get the ball and come down with the play. I think those of us that are around KT on a daily basis aren’t surprised to see him make a play like that because he’s made plenty of them.”

Thompkins had a simple explanation for the play, on which he beat cornerback Jabari Greer down the left sideline: “It was just a deep ball. It was zone coverage and the DB let me get behind him and I just went up there and made the play.”

THE PATRIOTS held tight end Jimmy Graham without a catch, not an easy feat. Graham came in with 37 catches for 593 yards. He was at first blanketed by cornerback Aqib Talib, who went out in the third quarter with a hip injury, and then by several others, including cornerback Kyle Arrington.

Drew Brees threw six balls to Graham, one of which was intercepted, by Arrington.

Belichick had praise for his entire secondary “because it was all of them.”

OCTOBER SUCCESS: The Patriots are 21-1 at home in October since 2003. Their lone loss over that stretch was on Oct. 2, 2005 to the San Diego Chargers, 41-17.

The Chargers quarterback that day? Drew Brees.

WHO SAYS Belichick doesn’t have a sense of humor?

He opened his postgame press conference with this nugget: “Sorry if you had to rewrite some of those stories there at the end.”

By the way, the win was the 210th of Belichick’s career, moving him ahead of Chuck Noll into fifth place on the all-time list.

STEVAN RIDLEY gave the offense a boost. After missing last week’s game with a knee injury, Ridley rushed for 96 yards on 20 carries and scored his first two TDs of 2013.

THE PATRIOTS defense forced a turnover for the 33rd consecutive game. Long way to go for the record, though: The Philadelphia Eagles forced a turnover in 71 consecutive games from 1985-90.

TIGHT END Rob Gronkowski was once again inactive. His health and status has become a weekly guessing game in New England as he continues to recover from offseason surgeries to his back and forearm. Apparently the arm has not healed enough to allow him to be cleared to play in a game despite practicing all week.

Other inactive Patriots included wide receivers Josh Boyce and Matthew Slater, running back Leon Washington, offensive lineman Chris Barker, safety Tavon Wilson and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.

Boyce was somewhat of a surprise as the rookie has been active all year. He was replaced by veteran Austin Collie, who signed with the Pats last week.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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