Patriots' Brady works comeback magic — again
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady worked his late-game magic Sunday, knocking the New Orleans Saints from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Brady, who struggled with new receivers this season, led his team down the field and hit rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with a 17-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left, giving the New England Patriots a 30-27 victory over the Saints.
With much of the crowd in the parking lot, the Patriots (5-1) went 70 yards on eight plays in 68 seconds with no timeouts for the winning score — Brady’s first touchdown pass in two weeks. It was the 28th fourth-quarter comeback win of Brady’s career, tying him with Brett Favre for fifth place in NFL history.
Included in the drive was a completion to veteran wide receiver Austin Collie, who made his Patriots debut in the fourth quarter after Danny Amendola left with a head injury.
The loss by New Orleans (5-1) loss left the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos as the only unbeaten teams in the NFL.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, quiet in the first half, led his team back first from a 10-point halftime deficit and a six-point hole in the fourth quarter. He hit Kenny Stills with a 34-yard touchdown pass with 3:29 remaining left to put New Orleans ahead 24-23.
After taking the lead, the Saints took advantage of two Patriots dropped passes to take over on downs at the New England 24. New Orleans didn’t eat up much time before Garrett Hartley’s second field goal.
The Patriots got the ball back at their 20 with 2:24 left, but Brady’s first pass, a long one, was easily intercepted by Keenan Lewis. However, New England got the ball back again, and this time won the game.
Brady, sacked five times, finished 25-for-43 for 269 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception.
New Orleans nearly won even though tight end Jimmy Graham, who had 10 catches last week, was shut out, much of the work done by Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib before he left with a hip injury. Graham suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury in the fourth quarter, came back and left again.
Brees, 9-for-19 in the first half, finished 17-for-36 for 236 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Both star quarterbacks were dreary at best until late.
New England’s Stephen Gostkowski broke a 17-17 tie with a 54-yard field goal with 1:36 left in the third quarter, then added a 23-yarder with 8:34 remaining in the game to put the home team ahead 23-17.
The Patriots, already missing tight end Rob Gronkowski and key interior linemen Vince Wolfork and Tommy Kelly, lost right guard Dan Connolly to a head injury in the first half and cornerback then Talib, Amendola and linebacker Jerod Mayo.
Saints running backs Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson both scored their first NFL touchdown.
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, who missed last week’s 13-6 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati due to a thigh bruise, scored his first two touchdowns of the season to lead the Patriots to a 17-7 halftime lead.
Brees came out after halftime and hit passes of 14, 19 and 32 yards before settling for a Hartley field goal. The Patriots then went three-and-out, and New Orleans got the ball back at its 33. This time, the Saints went to the run as the big weapon, with Robinson ripping off a 16-yarder on his first carry of the game. He wound up scoring from 3 yards out, and the game was tied with 6:19 left in the third quarter.
Gostkowski then nailed his club-record ninth field goal of 50 yards or more of his career.
NOTES: Brady moved into eighth place in all-time NFL passing yardage. ... Gronkowski (back, forearm) missed his sixth consecutive game, the same number he would have missed had the Pats placed him on the physically unable to perform list at the end of camp. With reports swirling that the team wants him to play, his mother, Diane, told the Boston Herald, “All I can say is Robbie is dying to play.” ... Former Patriots TE Benjamin Watson called (and won) the coin toss for the Saints, then caught three passes for 61 yards. ... New Orleans G Jahri Evans, who has never missed a game, played in his 115th straight. ... New England WR Julian Edelman, the NFL’s all-time punt return average leader, tried a trick play in the first quarter that was almost a disaster. He sent the ball backward to teammate Talib, and it was loose on the turf before Talib recovered at his own 11. Edelman caught a big pass on the final drive before failing to hold one near the goal line. ... The Patriots visit the New York Jets next week, while the Saints have a bye before hosting the Buffalo Bills.