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Patriots Pulse: Brady Shocks Brees, Saints With Last-Second Touchdown Pass

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.

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.

 

Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

Patriots 2012 Regular Season By The Numbers

On the surface, it is easy for any fan to see just how good or bad of a season their team has had. Whether it be wins and losses or total points put up, some stats tell the story, god or bad, of the year of their favorite team.

What most fans fail to sometimes realize, however, is all the stats that go into making an NFL team successful. Here are a bunch you would never even think to remotely consider about the 2012 season of the New England Patriots.

You name it. If it can be statistically tracked in the NFL, it’s probably in this post.

0 – The number of wins the team had when their leading rusher was under 40 yards for the game (0-2).

0 – The Patriots had no two-point conversions on the year. Just kind of odd.

0.5 – Brandon Bolden averaged half a yard more per carry than Stevan Ridley did.

1 – The number of franchises to score 500 points four different times. New England accomplished that this year after 500-point seasons in 2007, 2010 and 2011 as well.

1 – The New England offense ranked first in the NFL in total yards, yards per game, points and points per game in 2012.

1 – Of the four members of the team who finished the year as the starting secondary, only one (Devin McCourty) was on the team last year. Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib, Steve Gregory were the other three.

1 – Vince Wilfork‘s four forced fumbles were tied for first in the NFL.

1 – The number of full games that tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were both on the field for the whole contest – the season finale against the Dolphins.

1 – The number of NFL quarterbacks to throw at least one touchdown pass in all 16 regular season games for three straight seasons – Tom Brady in 2010-12.

2 – The number of teams to ever win 10-plus games in 10 consecutive seasons – the Patriots became the second to accomplish that this year.

2 – Their two-game losing streak in Weeks 2 and 3 was tied for their longest losing streak since they lost four straight in the 2002 season.

2 – This season was the second time they have gone undefeated against the AFC East, joining the 2007 team.

2 – The number of teams to ever record 400 first downs in a season – the 2012 Pats and the 2011 Saints.

2 – The number of points that Stephen Gostkowski needed to tie the all-time single-season Patriots scoring record set by Gino Cappelletti in 1964.

3 – Pass plays in the NFL this season longer than Shane Vereen‘s 83-yard reception in Week 12.

3 – It had been three years since the Patriots lost four or more games in a season (10-6 in 2009).

3 – The Pats have scored 500-plus points in three consecutive seasons.

The Patriots' offense has been unstoppable in the three years since drafting this duo.

The Patriots’ offense has been nearly unstoppable in the three years since drafting this duo.

4 – New England had four different players lead the team in receiving in their 16 games – Brandon Lloyd (3), Wes Welker (9), Gronkowski (3) and Vereen (1).

4 – It was Brady’s fourth career season of throwing 30 or more touchdown passes, good for a tie for the fourth-most all-time.

4 – Welker finished four receptions behind league-leader Calvin Johnson, who had 122 on the year.

4 – The Patriots have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.

4 – The team had four different players lead them in rushing in their 16 games – Ridley (13), Bolden (1), Julian Edelman (1) and Danny Woodhead (1).

5 – There have only been five Patriots running backs to rush for 1,200 yards in the team’s history. Ridley became the fifth this year.

5 – Wilfork was elected to the fifth Pro Bowl of his career and will start on the defensive line for the AFC.

5 – The team has held its opponents to 20 points or less in five of six games since Nov. 18 (5-1).

6 – In 16 games, the Patriots only lost six fumbles.

6 – The Pats finished six spots higher in total defense this year compared to last season when they finished 31st in the league.

6 – New England has been a top-10 offense in the NFL for six straight seasons.

7 – The amount of consecutive games that Brady needs to throw a touchdown pass in to break the all-time record of 54.

7 – New England’s longest winning streak of the year from Week 7 through Week 14.

7 – The number of points that Brady’s total QBR trailed Peyton Manning‘s for tops in the league.

7 – McCourty was one of seven NFL players to return a kickoff more than 100 yards on the year.

7 – The team sent seven members to the Pro Bowl in 2012.

New England's seven Pro Bowlers in 2012 are the third-most in the league.

New England’s seven Pro Bowlers in 2012 are the third-most in the league.

7 – Last year’s NFL leader in interceptions, Kyle Arrington, had seven fewer interceptions in 2012 than a year ago. He had seven in 2011.

8 – The number of years it had been since the team had a 1,200-yard rusher before this year. Corey Dillon rushed for 1,635 yards in 2004.

8 – Rob Ninkovich led the team with eight sacks on the year.

8 – The Pats had eight return TD’s on the season.

9 – The number of games in which the starting offensive line of Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Logan Mankins were all on the field together.

9 – Brady now ranks ninth on the NFL’s all-time passing list with 44,806 yards. He needs 1,427 yards to pass Vinny Testaverde.

9 – Ridley finished the season as one of just nine non-kickers in the top-40 in the league in scoring.

9 – The team has a nine-game division win streak heading into next season.

10 – The number of consecutive 10-win seasons for the Patriots – the second longest such streak ever (16).

10 – The team scored 30-plus points 10 times in their 16 games in 2012 (8-2).

10 – The number of players who had a rushing attempt for the Pats in 2012 led by Ridley’s 290 carries.

10 – New England had 10 more sacks than it allowed in 2012.

11 – They also had 11 more interceptions than their opponents did.

11 – The combined number of points New England fell by in its four losses against the Cardinals (2), Ravens (1), Seahawks (1) and 49ers (7).

11 – The number of current and former Pro Bowl running backs that Ridley out-rushed in 2012.

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