Tom Brady magic saves Patriots from another fourth-quarter disappointment

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a familiar script that has played out at various NFL stadiums over the past 17 years, Tom Brady magic saved the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Facing another fourth-quarter disappointment at home and looking at a 1-2 start, Brady rescued the Patriots with a magnificent game-winning drive to beat the Houston Texans 36-33.

The situation: Trailing by five points, the Patriots took over at their own 25-yard line with 2:24 remaining.

Nine plays later, with 23 seconds left, Brady connected with receiver Brandin Cooks on a 25-yard touchdown along the left side of the end zone, with Cooks tapping his toes and maintaining possession as he fell to the ground.

"They were playing a two-high defense, and we got Cookie behind the corner," Brady explained. "We had Danny [Amendola] going up the middle of the field, so I tried to stare down the middle and then put it up and didn't really see the end of it until I saw it on the scoreboard. It was close.

"Got to play to the last second."

The crowd, which had booed the team’s struggles earlier in the fourth quarter, erupted in unison: “Brady! Brady! Brady!”

"Yes, I've seen it before. He's the best football player that has ever played the game," Texans coach Bill O'Brien, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, told the Lawrence (Massachusetts) Eagle-Tribune and Boston Herald after the game.

With the final surge, Brady went over 300 yards passing for the 78th time in his career, which is the third-highest total in NFL history. He also finished with five passing touchdowns -- the sixth time in his career he has hit that mark -- tying Dan Marino for third most of all time. He finished 25-of-35 for 378 yards, with no interceptions.

The performance was Brady’s 52nd career game-winning effort to lead his team back from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. It was aided by Patriots' defense stopping the Texans on third-and-1 with its goal-line defense on the field to give the ball back to the offense.

"Defensively, we have a lot of faith that if we just give our offense the ball back with some time, they can make it happen," New England safety Devin McCourty said. "Odds are stacked against them, that's a great defense on the other side, and to drive down there and get the game-winning touchdown was great."

As Patriots coach Bill Belichick added, "The whole game really came down to the last three, 3½ minutes. Fortunately, we were able to make the plays we needed to make to win."

Up to that point, it looked like the Patriots -- who welcome the Carolina Panthers to town next Sunday -- were in trouble against a stingy Texans defense that made things tough on them for much of the day.

The Patriots' inability to gain 1 yard on two third-and-1 plays in the fourth quarter would have been a major storyline had they lost, as they were on the verge of being shut out in the fourth quarter at home for the second straight game. The defense also showed its vulnerability at times, with elusive Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson giving them trouble.

But instead, it’s Brady Magic once again.

"Legendary. He's just a legend," said Patriots rookie defensive lineman Deatrich Wise. "It was awesome to watch that [being] on the team -- and not from home. You kind of got to get behind the scenes in the sense of you seeing his leadership and what makes him, him. It's awesome."