Tom Brady and the New England Patriots used to pull off improbable comeback victories as a matter of routine. On Sunday evening in Foxborough, in front of a half-empty Gillette Stadium, Brady turned back the clock.
The Patriots, trailing by one, turned over the ball on downs with 2:46 left in the game. Brady, trailing by four, then threw an interception with 2:24 left. And yet the Patriots somehow beat the New Orleans Saints 30-27 anyhow.
This wasn't Brady's best performance. But his 17-yard touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with seconds left will go down as one of the most memorable regular-season throws of his career. His eight-play, 70-yard touchdown drive in only 1:08 will go down as one of the best drives of Brady's career. Most of the crowd was gone after Brady's interception.
Brady hasn't been as sharp this season as years past, but his teammates on defense are picking him up more often. And he's still capable of a little late-game magic.
Here's what else we learned in the game:
1. Brady averaged 6.3 yards per throw and continues to rank as one of the least efficient quarterbacks in the league. Drops were a huge problem in the fourth quarter, but Brady missed a number of open throws throughout the day. This was a great day for coordinator Josh McDaniels, who had the Saints' defense off balance.
2. Jimmy Graham hobbled off late in the game. Before that happened, Aqib Talib held Graham to no catches. Talib also eventually left in a contest that was marred by injuries to Danny Amendola, Jerod Mayo and Cameron Jordan.
3. This was the first game since Week 1 in 2012 that Brees completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Despite the score, there was a lot of good defense played in this game. The Saints had six three-and-outs. New England got the ball back to Brady two times late. Brady was hit often all game.
4. Sean Payton got a little conservative late in the game, trying to hold the lead. It backfired.