FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The way Tom Brady saw it, there was no option.
The Patriots had to score. Simple as that. A touchdown, maybe, but at least a field goal to take Sunday’s game into overtime. And Brady’s preference, of course, was a touchdown.
That was the Hall-of-Fame-bound quarterback’s mindset as he and the Patriots took over the ball at their 20-yard line with 2:31 to go, facing a three-point deficit against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium.
“You can’t not get the ball in the end zone. The plays and the throws need to be more accurate. The routes need to be better. The protection needs to be better and the entire offense (needs to be better). It’s something we work on quite a bit,” Brady said of the Pats’ two-minute offense with the game on the line.
So although the offense had been held scoreless the entire second half, Brady calmly moved the Patriots 80 yards for a touchdown, completing eight of nine passes, including the game-winner, an eight-yard strike to tight end Aaron Hernandez with 22 seconds left.
The result of the clutch drive was a 20-16 victory over the Cowboys, giving the Patriots a 5-1 record and the division lead heading into their bye week.
“We haven’t had really a true two-minute situation at the end of the game where we needed a touchdown in a long time,” said Brady, who completed 27-of-41 passes for 289 yards. He threw for two touchdowns, but also had a pair of interceptions.
“We practice it quite a bit. We prepare hard for that situation every week. When it came up this week, it’s good to get the ball in the end zone,” said Brady, who moved into eighth on the all-time touchdown list, throwing for at least one score in his 22nd straight regular-season game, extending his franchise record.
The goal of the final drive, which began with New England trailing, 16-13, was altered somewhat as the Pats kept chewing up the yardage.
“You’re down three, so you know you have to get into field-goal range,” Brady said. “Once you get in field-goal range, you’re thinking of scoring touchdowns. A lot of guys made a lot of big plays.”
Earlier, the Patriots were their own worst enemies, committing four turnovers. But with Brady at the helm, they persevered when it mattered most.
“I’ve said it before, there’s no quarterback I’d rather have,” coach Bill Belichick said. “I’m not going to get in the ranking and all of that, but I’m glad he’s our quarterback.
In the end, it was a win, and that’s all that counted.
“They played a good game defensively,” Brady said. They have a lot of good players and a good scheme. Our execution wasn’t great at times but when we needed it, it was. Everyone is sitting in the locker room at 5-1 going into the bye week feeling pretty good. Obviously there are a lot of things we need to correct, but it’s much better to be 5-1 than 4-2. We worked hard for this one."