Kenbrell Thompkins skies to hang on to the game-winning touchdown pass and the Patriots held on to improve to 5-1 on the year.
In a back-and-forth game at Gillette, when the leaves seemed to be a little redder at the end than they were at the start, Tom Brady once again reminded everyone in New England just exactly why he is one of the greatest of all-time. And it was one of his rookies, Kenbrell Thompkins, that was on the receiving end of the 17-yard pass as he jumped up and came down with the ball between his hands just above the outstretched defender in the corner of the endzone and all but locked up the 30-27 come-from-behind win over the previously undefeated Saints.
Trailing by four with just over a minute left, Brady drove the Pats 70 yards after the defense forced a New Orleans punt and left enough time by burning their three timeouts. He went 5-for-7 on the drive, utilizing Julian Edelman, Austin Collie and then Thompkins for big gains and also passing Vinny Testaverde for eighth on the all-time passing yards list.
“Guys made big time catches,” Brady said of his new receivers’ play on the final drive before adding that no matter what, he has confidence in his targets.
The Pats jumped out to a 17-7 halftime lead behind two rushing touchdowns from Stevan Ridley, who was back in the lineup after missing last week’s contest with a knee injury. A Stephen Gostkowski field goal on their first possession had made it 3-0, Pats. Drew Brees would keep his team in it, however, as he utilized some new targets to put up some points.
New England fell behind, 7-3, as Brees got the Saints on the board with a late touchdown pass in the first to Travaris Cadet from three yards out. Ridley would score the next two, though, and the Pats went into the dressing room with a 10-point lead despite no touchdown passes from Brady for the sixth straight quarter.
After deferring to the second half, the Saints came out with the first 10 points of the third quarter as well with a 28-yard field goal from Garrett Hartley first and then a three-yard run from Khiry Robinson, who was in there with Mark Ingram inactive for the contest. Gostkowski then broke the 17-17 tie with 1:36 left in the third and added his third of the day six and a half minutes into the fourth to make the score 23-17 Patriots with 8:34 to play.
Again, Brees answered, however, finding Kenny Stills with a 34-yard pass that Alfonzo Dennard appeared to have a beat on, but was unable to bat down in the corner of the endzone. Stills came down with both feet in and the Saints led, 24-23, with 3:29 to play. Plenty of time remained for Brady, but No. 12 couldn’t get anything going and New England was forced to punt. Hartley would then add three more and force the Pats to drive down the field needing a touchdown with 2:24 left.
Brady then threw a deep interception on the first play as he tried to connect with Edelman down the right side and it would be up to the defense to get the ball back. They held and with the help of the two-minute warning and their final timeout, were able to get the ball back into Brady’s hands.
He opened the game-winning drive with a 23-yard completion to Edelman before finding Collie for 15 more on the next play. Instead of clocking it with 39 seconds remaining, Brady faked the spike and fired to Aaron Dobson, who not only picked up six huge yards, but got out of bounds to stop the clock. After failing to connect with Edelman on each of the next two plays, including once at the goal line, Brady then found Collie again, who got to the New Orleans 17 with 10 seconds left on the scoreboard clock.
Then, Brady found the rookie, who made his third catch of the game to cap off the thrilling no-huddle drive and shock the undefeated Saints. Brady finished the game .25-of-43 for 269 yards and the one huge touchdown pass that sent his team to 5-1 on the year, while out-passing Brees.
“What more can you ask out of your leader?” Ridley said. “He put the team on his back.”
Danny Amendola, Dan Connolly and Aqib Talib all suffered injuries in the game, but despite hurting his hip, Talib was able to help contain tight end, Jimmy Graham, who had just zero catches for zero yards on six targets and failed to become the first tight end ever with five straight 100-yard receiving games.
Dobson was solid on the day and led the Pats with six catches for 63 yards and Ridley finished with 96 yards on 20 attempts. Edelman had five for 57 and a tight end actually snuck into the offense as Michael Hoomanawanui caught four balls for 57 yards. Joe Vellano led the team with eight tackles.
The touchdown pass to Thompkins would have tied Brees’ NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass had Brady’s streak not come to an end a week ago. Rob Gronkowski was inactive for a sixth straight game.
New England (5-1) remains alone atop the AFC East and will take on the Jets for the second time this season next Sunday afternoon while New Orleans, who fell to 5-1, will host the Bills.
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