INDIANAPOLIS - Tom Brady proved once again how hard it is to keep a good man down.
The uberquarterback struggled for three quarters yesterday against a Colts defense that unveiled some perplexing and surprising looks. Brady was sacked twice, intercepted twice, and limited to 97 yards passing as the Patriots found themselves trailing by 10 with just under 10 minutes to play, their undefeated season in peril inside a warm and loud RCA Dome.
"They did a bunch of different things we weren't prepared for," Brady said, noting the Colts went with a lot of man coverage inside in a bid to take away the quick throws to receiver Wes Welker and running back Kevin Faulk that worked so well last week against Washington.
But somewhere along the way to all those blowout victories over the last two months folks stopped remembering how Brady made a name for himself in the NFL.
"Fourth-quarter wins and coming back from adversity," tight end Benjamin Watson correctly pointed out.
And so it was once again, Brady completing 9 of 13 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes as the Patriots rallied for a 24-20 victory to hand the Colts their first loss of the season.
"They made a couple of good plays," Brady said of the picks by linebacker Gary Brackett and Antoine Bethea. "You learn from them and come back and try not to do it again."
That's come back, as in comeback.
It was the 25th time Brady has led the Patriots to victory when they've either trailed or been tied in the fourth quarter. He also improved to 27-5 as a starter in games decided by 4 points or fewer.
"It's fun to watch," Patriots tight end Kyle Brady said. "He really has a tremendous command with what's going on on the field and who's going to be open."
Trailing, 20-10, the Patriots took over on their 27 following Peyton Manning's quarterback sneak for a TD. Tom Brady found Randy Moss for 15 yards and a first down before lofting a deep pass down the left side to Moss, who came down with it at the 3 for a 55-yard gain.
"We hadn't been throwing it deep much all day," Brady said. "I think we were picking our spots. Randy had a great release and got up on that safety [Bethea]. It was one-on-one with the guy and I just tried to throw it up for him. He made a great catch. That was a big spark for us."
A penalty and an incompletion slowed the drive but didn't stop it. Welker came through with a touchdown catch on third and 3 to slice the deficit to 20-17 with 7:59 to play.
Not only did the Patriots score, they did so in efficient fashion. The seven-play, 73-yard drive consumed just 1:43.
"I'm glad we scored quickly because when we got the ball back we had some time with it," Brady said.
The defense did its part and Welker aided the cause with a 23-yard punt return to put the ball at the New England 49 with four minutes to go. Sticking with the no-huddle, Brady found Moss for 5 yards, Donte' Stallworth for 33, and Faulk for 13, the running back diving into the end zone for his first touchdown of the season and the Patriots' first lead since early in the second quarter.
It was a wild turnaround but not unexpected. Despite things not going his way early on, Brady never lost his way.
"He's fired up and cool at the same time if that makes sense," Watson said. "He's animated but doesn't let it affect his play."
Brady's day wasn't done, though, until he made his final completion. That came right before the two-minute warning when he hit Welker on the right side for 10 yards and a first down.
Three kneel-downs later, the Patriots were 9-0 and onto their bye week thanks to another vintage fourth-quarter performance by Brady.
"Just give him the ball and he'll make something happen," receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "He pulled us through."
After all, you can only keep a good quarterback down for so long.