When Tom Brady threw an errant pass down the field for an interception with under three minutes to go in Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints, this column was going to be written about the collapse of the Patriot offense and their inability to beat a very good team.
Brady's game-winning touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left in the game completely rewrote this piece in a flash.
The Saints headed into Gillette stadium with a highly touted offense that will be unstoppable for the Patriots defense. This would prove to be the first true test for the Pats defense.
The Patriots looked to prove they could stop the Saints. As the Brady led offense took the field, they immediately went into the hurry up offense opening with a 14 play 60-yard drive ending in a Gostkowski field goal.
The Patriots showed great efficiency early on offense. Normally they start with poorly run passing routes and dropped bases, but on Sunday they executed making a statement that this team is for real.
The defense also showed up against the high powered Saints offense. Last year the Pats defense was one of the worst in the league. When a defense can hold a Drew Brees led Saints team to 236 yards passing and hold All Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to no catches, you can call the Pats defense a force to reckon with.
Patriots corner Aquib Talib was once again the Patriots best defender as he effectively covered Marques Colston and the afore mentioned Graham like a blanket. When Talib went down with a hip injury, Alfonzo Dennard stepped in to pick up where Talib left off.
On the other side of the field, the Rob Ryan coached Saints defense also had a good game putting Brady on his back five times and intercepting him with under three minutes with what seemed to be the game clincher for the Saints. The Saints never let Brady get comfortable in the pocket. Brady had trouble getting rid of the ball and he was forced into inaccurate throws throughout the game, including an overthrow to Danny Amendola for what was a sure touchdown pass.
With that said, Brady did throw the ball to eight different receivers, including to newly acquired Austin Collie. There was no receiver that stood out in this game other than rookie Kenbrell Thompkins catching the game winner with five seconds left in the game. Brady said it well after the game, "That's what a football teams are all about; using all 53 guys on the roster to try to move the ball down the field and get it into the end zone one way or another. Today it took is 59 minutes and 55 seconds."
Stevan Ridley was the most productive runner with 96 yards on 20 attempts punching it into the end zone twice. After being benched in game two of the season for fumbling and sitting out with an injury last week, Ridley came back with a vengeance averaging almost five yards a carry.
The biggest component missing in the Patriots offense this season was the play of the tight ends. Finally a tight end stepped to make an offensive contribution and that player was Michael Hoomanawanui. He had 57 yards on four catches. This could be a sign of more things to come in the Patriots offense.
There were still a high number of dropped passes in the game by Patriots receivers. These drops continue to be drive killers, including two dropped passes by Aaron Dobson and Brandon Bolden late that could have cost the Patriots.
Going forward, injuries will continue to be a major concern for the Patriots. Jerod Mayo, Danny Amendola, and Talib all left the game to add to an already injured roster. It will be interesting to see how this team holds together.
In the immortal words of Bill Belichick, "It is what it is" and the Patriots pulled out a win when they needed it against potent New Orleans offense. Drives at the end of the game like they executed Sunday are what keeps naysayers and doubters coming back to Brady.
"Look, we all have bad plays out there," said Belichick after the game. "Everyone of us missed blocks, missed tackles, bad calls, bad throws, drops, whatever it is. But competitors come back and keep competing and come back and get it the next time."
This philosophy has gotten the Patriots to a 5-1 record on the season.
Shane Leketa is a long time Patriots fan who bleeds red white and blue. Leketa runs the site @MyPatsSpace
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