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Patriots-Saints: What we learned

The SportsXchange

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick was asked after Sunday's wild finish what makes Tom Brady so special late in games.

"He's one of the best players in the league. He's good in all four quarters," the New England Patriots coach said.

However, Brady wasn't great in all four quarters Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. In fact, he wasn't great through much of the first six games of the season. Late in the fourth quarter Sunday, though, No. 12 was pure magic.

Brady, struggling with his new receivers most of the season, led his team down the field and hit rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with a 17-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left, giving the Patriots a 30-27 victory over the previously undefeated Saints.

"I just tried to put it back there where he could make a play," Brady said after Thompkins beat Saints cornerback Jabari Greer. "That was pretty sweet."

With much of the crowd gone, the Patriots (5-1) went 70 yards on eight plays in 68 seconds with no timeouts for the winning score -- Brady's first touchdown pass in two weeks. It was the 28th fourth-quarter drive for a comeback win of Brady's career, tying him with Brett Favre for fifth place in NFL history. Brady led his team on a game-winning drive when either behind or tied for the 37th time.

Included in the drive were two completions to veteran wide receiver Austin Collie, who made his Patriots debut in the fourth quarter after Danny Amendola left with a head injury. Brady said the team "wanted to see what he could do, see if he can help us win a game, and that's what he did." One of the catches came on fourth down.

The loss by New Orleans (5-1) loss left the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos as the only unbeaten teams in the NFL.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees, quiet in the first half, led his team back from two deficits. He hit Kenny Stills with a 34-yard touchdown pass with 3:29 remaining left to put New Orleans ahead 24-23.

After taking the lead, the Saints took advantage of two Patriots dropped passes -- and New England's decision to go for it on fourth-and-6 with all three timeouts left -- to take over on downs at the New England 24. New Orleans didn't eat up much time before Garrett Hartley's second field goal.

The Patriots got the ball back at their 20 with 2:24 left, but Brady's first pass was picked by Keenan Lewis. However, New England got the ball back again following a New Orleans punt.

Brady, sacked five times, finished 25-for-43 for 269 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception.

New Orleans nearly won even though tight end Jimmy Graham was shut out, much of the work done by cornerback Aqib Talib before Talib left with a hip injury. Graham suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury in the fourth quarter, came back and left again.

What the Patriots said

"The guys made a bunch of plays at the end. Guys made great catches. Just a great game." -- Quarterback Tom Brady, after engineering the winning drive.

What the Saints said

"That was a tough play. Jabari (Greer) makes that play all the time. We'll rally back." -- Safety Kenny Vaccaro, after his teammate was beaten for the winning touchdown.

What we learned about the Saints

1. New Orleans can get production from others when the main guys are shut down. Running backs Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson both scored their first career touchdown, and with Jimmy Graham and Maruc Colston held to a combined one catch, the Saints were in position to win the game.

2. The Saints probably were a tad overrated with their 5-0 record. Yes, 5-0 is 5-0, but the Patriots were ripe for the picking and should have been picked. Truly outstanding teams don't give away games like this one.

What we learned about the Patriots

1. When the game is on the line, Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. Hardly outstanding through much of the game Sunday and through much of the season, he was still able to lead his team on another dramatic, winning drive. "I know this -- you can't give Tom Brady and that offense three chances at a two-minute drill," New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said.

2. Injuries may finally catch up to the Patriots. New England is still waiting for Rob Gronkowski to return from his injuries, is playing with both interior defensive linemen out and lost Aqib Talib, Danny Amendola, Jerod Mayo and Dan Connolly on Sunday (with the outlook on all of them uncertain). New England is 5-1 despite the roster trouble. "I was just proud of the way we hung in there and didn't stop fighting," Brady said Sunday.
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