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Patriots march past the Saints, 30-27

Sunday, October 13, 2013

 

They were 4-1 going in, facing one of three undefeated teams left in the NFL. You'd have thought the Patriots were the Jacksonville Jaguars with NO shot, based on pre-game chatter.

They had a shot, alright. Facing the unbeaten New Orleans Saints (5-0) at Gillette Stadium Sunday...a shot right to the end. And Tom Brady took it...which led New England to a heart-stopping, last second 30-27 win.

The Patriots opened the game with a solid drive - 14 plays, and 60 yards before the Saints red zone turned a brick wall...that the offense once again could not knock down. It forced Stephen Gostkowski to kick over that wall with a 35-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead. New England ranks next-to-last in the NFL in scoring red zone touchdowns.

It's a problem that has plagued the Pats all season long.

New Orleans bounced back on its' second possession, thanks to big pass-and-run plays from Pierre Thomas (29 yards) and former NE TE Ben Watson (22 yards). They marched 73 yards in nine plays as Drew Brees connected with Travaris Cadet for the final three yards to give the Saints a 7-3 lead with 1:46 to play in the 1st quarter.

Then, a spark. A flash from an explosive offense of recent days and years gone by? Brady found rookie WR Aaron Dobson on two big plays to put the ball at the NO 15 as the quarter ended. Tom Brady then attempted a corner fade to Dobson, with pass interference called on Keenan Lewis - setting up a one-yard TD run by Stevan Ridley two plays later. It was 10-7 New England two minutes deep into the 2nd quarter.

With Aqib Talib seeing time in coverage on Saints super-target, TE Jimmy Graham, he knocked away a third down pass to give his offense the ball again at their own 34. Facing 3rd and 18 after a sack, Brady hit a wide open Michael Hoomanawanui for 19 yards...and found him open again for 18 more setting up Ridley for a four-yard TD run.

Who dat? 17-7 New England, over the undefeated Saints, with 7:36 left before the half...dat's who.

Trailing by that margin starting the 3rd quarter, Brees quickly moved his team to the Pats' 10 yard line, where the drive stalled...and forced Garrett Hartley to boot a 28-yard field goal to make it 17-10 early in the period. And after the Patriots could not muster much with their first shot in the period, Brees seemed to solve the Pats' puzzles on defense, zipping his team right up the field again - as Khiry Robinson finished off a 67-yard drive with a three-yard run to make it 17-17 with 6:19 left in the 3rd.

Gostkowski connected on a 54 yard field goal for a 20-17 Pats lead as play entered the 4th quarter, and then the NE defense made its stand. Kyle Arrington intercepted Brees at the NE 20, but the offense couldn't generate six in the red zone, instead settling for another Gostkowski FG from 23 yards for a 23-17 game and 8:37 left.

You knew Brees would have another shot left in him...and you would be right. On a 3rd and 20 play, Brees hit Kenny Stills for a 34 yard score to make it 24-23 with 3:34 remaining...and after the offense again failed on a 4th down attempt in their end of the field, Hartley added three more on a 39-yarder for a 27-23 margin. Brady was intercepted by Keenan Lewis, which might have ended things right there...leaving the fans wondering how things unraveled after such a promising start.

But with one final possession and no time outs left...Brady worked his magic. A 4th down at the NO 26 saw him hit Austin Collie for nine yards, and then a near-miracle...finding Kenbrell Thompkins in the end zone from 17 yards with five seconds left...for the improbable 30-27 score.

No, they're not the Jaguars. They're the 5-1 New England Patriots, looking a bit more like the Patriots of old.

Post Game Notes

Since the beginning of 2003, the Patriots are 31-4 (.886) in regular season games following a loss, dropping back-to-back regular season games just four times over that span...Bill Belichick won his 210th career game to move past Hall of Famer Chuck Noll for 5th place all-time on the NFL wins list. Curly Lambeau is in fourth place with 229 career wins...the victory marked the 38th time that Brady has led his team to victory following a fourth-quarter deficit or tie...New England’s defense held New Orleans TE Jimmy Graham without a catch. Graham entered the game averaging 188.6 yards per game...Chandler Jones had two sacks in the fourth quarter, raising his team-high total to 5.5 sacks. Both of Jones’s sacks helped lead to fourth-quarter scoring drives...Gostkowski connected on a career-long 54-yard field goal in the third quarter.  He has nine career 50+ yard kicks in his career (in 12 attempts), which is the most in Patriots history...Arrington's 4th quarter interception of Brees makes it 33 straight games for the Pats' defense to record a takeaway, the longest active streak in the NFL...Brady (46,286) moved past Vinny Testaverde (46,233) for eighth place on the NFL’s all-time passing list. Fran Tarkenton is in seventh place with 47,003 passing yards...the Patriots are now 21-1 at home in the month of October since 2003...and, the Patriots are 5-1 to start the season.  It's the 9th time in franchise history they have started 5-1 or better...Talib, Danny Amendola and OL Dan Connolly all left the game early with injuries...

 

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