FOXBOROUGH — For the 38th time in his career, Tom Brady led the Patriots on a game-winning drive, throwing a 17-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left in the game to lift New England, 30-27, over the New Orleans Saints.
The final drive, spanning 70 yards on 8 plays in 1:08, was vintage Brady. He completed 5 of 8 passes for all 70 yards, including the dagger to Thompkins, a lofty throw in the corner of the end zone over Saints cornerback Jabari Greer where only his receiver could get it.
“We had everybody going to the end zone and he kind of snuck into the corner and I put it up there for him and he came down and made a great catch,” Brady said. “There were a lot of great catches there at the end.”
Indeed there were.
Brady hit wide receiver Austin Collie, signed just 10 days prior, for two receptions on the final drive for 24 yards. And Julian Edelman caught a 23-yard pass down the seam to get the drive going.
“We just knew it was going to come down to the last minute,” Thompkins said. “Until that clock said all zeros on it, we were going to fight until the finish. And that’s what we did. We just went out there and fought to the finish.”
The Patriots had seemed down and out. Brady had thrown an interception with 2:16 remaining in the game following a Drew Brees 34-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills.
Had the Saints been able to get a first down after the Brady pick, they would’ve been able to run the clock out. But with a timeout and a 2-minute warning to look forward to, the Patriots defense forced a three-and-out — the Saints’ fifth of the game — to give them the ball back with 1:13 remaining.
“Sorry if you had to rewrite some of those stories there at the end,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “What a football game. I feel like that took about five years off my life.”