Patriots' Thompkins stayed calm for winning catch
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Kenbrell Thompkins was calm as he lined up
with 10 seconds left.
Make the catch and the New England Patriots cap a stunning comeback.
Miss it and they have just one more play.
"Every day in practice we work on those situations, last plays of the
game, two-minute situations," the rookie wide receiver said Monday. "So
I just kind of just played it like practice."
And, like in practice, it worked.
Thompkins caught Tom Brady's perfect arcing throw in the left back
corner of the end zone, a 17-yarder with 5 seconds left that gave the
Patriots a 30-27 win Sunday. It sent the crowd that remained into a
frenzy and brought a pained look to the face of New Orleans Saints
defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
A smiling Thompkins was surrounded by ecstatic teammates — and
thousands of empty seats left by fans who had lost hope.
"After the game my phone was dead from text messages," he said Monday.
"I was fortunate and I was happy for this team, most importantly."
The Patriots improved to 5-1 despite playing all season without their
top five pass catchers from last year. The Saints slipped to 5-1,
losing a game in which they allowed the Patriots three possessions in
the last four minutes.
Thompkins was the unlikely star.
Rookie receivers have struggled badly with the Patriots over the years.
And Thompkins wasn't even drafted out of Cincinnati.
But he and second-round draft choice Aaron Dobson had the advantage of
plenty of practice repetitions that past rookies lacked. The Patriots
really had no choice after parting with Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd,
their top two wide receivers last season.
That extra work carried over into the film room. The new receivers have
been meeting with Brady on Tuesdays, the players' usual day off.
"It helps us in all kind of ways," Thompkins said. "It actually gives
us just the point of view of how he wants things done and actually
Dobson also made a big catch on the winning 70-yard drive that began
with the Patriots having just 73 seconds and no timeouts left. With 35
seconds remaining, he got out of bounds to stop the clock after a
6-yard reception gave the Patriots a second-and-4 at the Saints 26.
"It certainly wouldn't have been worth it to pick up 5 yards and get
tackled inbounds," coach Bill Belichick said. "So getting out of bounds
was really the key play there."
Dobson, a standout at Marshall, also has learned from those Tuesday
sessions with Brady, a 14-year veteran and two-time NFL MVP.
"We might watch a couple of games just by ourselves, just getting the
communication right," Dobson said.
Having worked overtime to learn the Patriots' complex system gives
Dobson great appreciation for what Austin Collie, making his Patriots
debut, was able to contribute. He entered late in the game and made two
catches — one a 9-yard gain on a fourth-and-4 — on the winning drive.
"Just for him to come in that quick and get a grasp of the offense,
it's great because I know how hard it is," Dobson said. "I've been
through the transition. It's definitely a tough thing to do."
Dobson led the Patriots with six catches on Sunday and has 19 for the
season with one touchdown. Thompkins caught three passes and has 21
receptions and four touchdowns for the year.
The last was the biggest, and he wasn't surprised he was open.
"I thought I was open a couple of plays before that," Thompkins said.
And then the player who no team drafted was in the spotlight of an
"I'm kind of just going out there, just living in the moment, just
playing football," Thompkins said, "just trying to make a play for my
NOTES: The Patriots had no update on four players who didn't return
after being injured Sunday: Amendola (head), cornerback Aqib Talib
(hip), linebacker Jerod Mayo (shoulder) and guard Dan Connolly (head).
... Talib did an outstanding job on star tight end Jimmy Graham, who
didn't have a catch for the first time in 46 games. "I'm sure fantasy
guys are going nuts because they're bummed that they got no points from
him," defensive end Rob Ninkovich said.
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