FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After 52 straight games with a touchdown pass, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady almost went two straight games without one. But then he found receiver Kenbrell Thompkins open in the back of the end zone for a game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass with five seconds remaining, leading the Patriots to a 30-27 victory over the Saints.
That was the 32nd game-winning drive of Brady’s career in the fourth quarter or overtime, according to ESPN Stats & Information, which ranks second among active players behind Peyton Manning (49).
But until that point, it looked like the Saints’ Drew Brees had pulled off the 31st game-winning drive of his own standout career. Brees was poised to tie Brady with No. 31 when he nailed rookie receiver Kenny Stills with a gorgeous 34-yard touchdown pass on third-and-20 with 3:29 remaining.
Brady also won his first head-to-head battle against Brees in their four career regular-season meetings.
Needless to say, the much-hyped showdown between the two future Hall of Famers wound up delivering in a big way.
End zone debuts: All three of the Saints’ touchdowns were career firsts Sunday -- second-year running back Travaris Cadet's 3-yard reception in the second quarter, rookie running back Khiry Robinson's 3-yard run in the third quarter and Stills’ touchdown catch in the fourth.
Missed call? I got a lot of fan feedback about a missed holding call against Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder on Brady’s touchdown pass. I saw several tweets of the still picture of Solder hooking Saints pass rusher Junior Galette that looked pretty egregious. The full-speed TV replay didn’t look quite as bad, though. The hook was brief, and Brady got rid of the ball quickly. It’s possible Galette wouldn’t have hit him in time, regardless. ... I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a holding call there, but I also wasn’t shocked to see the no-call. I’ll have to ask around after the Saints watch the film to see what they think. I know Galette didn’t mention it postgame, though, saying, “They just finished, and we didn’t. ... The end result was we didn’t finish, and we’re in the business of winning.”
I also got a ton of questions about whether the Patriots got four timeouts in the second half. But I think that was a mistake with the television graphic. There was some confusion over which team was charged a timeout early in the third quarter, but that timeout was officially awarded to the Saints according to the stat book.
Worth a click:
If you can stomach the quotes from the victorious locker room, there’s lots of interesting stuff on the ESPN.com Patriots page -- including the Patriots’ take on why they were so successful against tight end Jimmy Graham (zero catches for the first time since 2010). Said cornerback/safety Devin McCourty: “All week we knew, all we kept hearing was ‘Jimmy Graham, Jimmy Graham.’”
It’s no surprise that Saints cornerback Jabari Greer was such a stand-up guy after allowing the game-winning TD pass. He stood in with the media and faced the fire until the questions were done. Here’s a video snippet from NOLA.com.
WWLTV.com’s Bradley Handwerger took Greer’s message that he and the defense won’t be defined by that one play and spun it forward for the rest of the Saints’ season. He wrote that the Saints can take away positives from their effort Sunday -- and quoted fullback Jed Collins as saying that coach Sean Payton’s postgame message was, “Don’t let this loss beat us twice.”