It was not the kind of game you’d expect to see when Drew Brees and Tom Brady are the two starting quarterbacks, but it ended the way you might have predicted.
There weren’t a lot of aerial fireworks over the course of a physical, run-heavy matchup between the Saints and Patriots, but both quarterbacks made big plays in the final minutes. Brees hit Kenny Stills for a 34-yard touchdown with 3:29 to play in the fourth quarter to give the Saints a 24-23 lead over the Patriots. The Saints were able to add to their lead with a field goal when the Patriots tried and failed to convert a fourth down on their own 24-yard line with just under three minutes to play. Bill Belichick made that call despite having all of his timeouts.
Brady would then throw a pick deep in New Orleans territory and the Saints worked some clock before punting. The problem was that they left Brady just enough time to win the day.
A frustrating day for Brady, who was sacked five times and saw receivers make several drops, ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left on the clock to cap a 70-yard drive. That gave the Patriots a 30-27 win in improbable and exciting fashion. Brady’s final line — 25-of-43 for 269 yards with a touchdown and an interception — belies how difficult things were (and how well the Saints defense played before the final minute), but the win makes it much easier to swallow the continued struggles in the passing game.
New England did run the ball well, but there’s two steps backward for any one forward in the passing game. Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s return would surely help, but it might not cure all that ails the Patriots in that regard if Danny Amendola, knocked out on a massive hit by safety Rafael Bush, misses much time.
Brees finished the day 17-of-36 for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns, so there was plenty of frustration for him on Sunday as well. If Jimmy Graham, who was held without a catch before leaving with an apparent ankle injury, is out for any extended period of time, it might stay that way for the Saints quarterback.