Tom Brady's masterpiece has Patriots looking like the Patriots again

Patriots ability to 'morph' leads to success (1:09)

Jeff Saturday points to how New England was able to swap personnel groupings on offense as a key contributor to their win over the Saints. (1:09)

NEW ORLEANS -- The New England Patriots looked like the New England Patriots again, and it all started with quarterback Tom Brady.

Breathing fire all week after a season-opening loss for which he said the team’s attitude and competitiveness needed to be at a higher level, Brady turned in a masterpiece in Sunday’s 36-20 win over the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"To be 0-1 with a 10-day break felt like a year," Brady said afterward.

One snapshot that reflected Brady's leadership came at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Patriots were in control with a 33-13 lead, as he paced up and down the sideline while speaking with emotion to each position group. He was clearly letting them know they couldn’t have a repeat of the opener, when they were outscored 21-0 in the final quarter.

The Patriots finished stronger, but it was their start that was truly dazzling.

After Brady had called for a higher level of competitiveness, he backed it up by throwing for three first-quarter touchdowns for the first time in his 18-year career. That gave the Patriots an early cushion as they continue to work through some defensive issues.

"He just led vocally, he led by actions," wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. "That's the biggest thing that you can ask from your quarterback. He did just that."

By game’s end, Brady had finished 30-of-39 for 447 yards and set the record for most career games (52) with three or more touchdowns and no interceptions (he had previously been tied with Peyton Manning).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brady also joined Warren Moon as the only quarterbacks age 40 or older in NFL history to throw for at least 400 yards and three touchdowns in a game. Moon accomplished the feat in October 1997.

It helped, of course, that the Saints’ defense is one of the NFL’s worst and continues to struggle.

So in looking ahead to next Sunday’s home game against J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans, it should be a much tougher challenge. But after a week in which emotions stirred, with Brady and the Patriots having extra time to stew on their season-opening loss, they’ll deal with that challenge in due time.

More importantly for them, led by Brady, they were back to their usual form on Sunday, as a large Patriots fan contingent could be heard loudly at the end of the game chanting the top storyline of the day: “Brady! Brady! Brady!"

"Hopefully, they are all out on Bourbon Street; this is a good road game to come to," Brady said with a smile.

"I heard them. There was a lot kind of spread there on that first level. It's great to see the support. We have that at different places. It's always great coming on the road and they have all the crowd noise and momentum and then you're there at the end and they're cheering for our team. It's a great way to end the game."