Is it just me or are all of these late 4:25 games nail-biters. Things were very tense in Foxboro as the previously undefeated Saints fell to the hometown Patriots in thrilling fashion. There was a lot going on throughout this contest and New Orleans had every opportunity to shut the door on this one but failed to do so. Instead, it was Stevan Ridley kicking the door down (with his two rushing touchdowns) and Tom Brady’s last second heave to Kenbrell Thomkins in the end zone that will be the iconic moments that survive the week. Folks, these Patriots are for real. If you didn’t know before, you do now. It takes a special performance to down a 5-0 team.
Aquib Talib was, once again, a solidity in the secondary. It surprised me to see him playing so much man-to-man on Jimmy Graham. Bill Belichick 1, myself 0. Talib was handcuffed to the big tight end and completely shut him down. Graham did not have one catch in this entire game. When Talib left with an injury midway through the third quarter it seemed as if the Saints were going to try and test Devin McCourty (who took over in man-coverage on the all-pro), however New England lucked out because the injury came at a time when New Orleans was trying to emphasize their running game. Therefore, the Pats survived the final stages of the game without their best defensive back.
The Saints did a good job erasing a 17-7 halftime deficit. They came out in the third quarter and were able to tie up the game. When the Patriots lead 20-17 in the fourth quarter, Drew Brees was intercepted by Kyle Arrington. The New Orleans “D” did a nice enough job to hold New England to a field goal. Following that near debacle, Brees took his team right down the field to retake the lead. On a 3rd and 20 from the NE 34 the Saints QB lofted a rainbow pass to his big target in Kenny Stills for a touchdown. Both Patriots DBs (Alfonzo Dennard and Steve Gregory) underplayed the pass and it was able to sneak in behind them. This brought the score to 24-23. The Patriots followed that drive up by going 4 and out (that would be a failure on a fourth and six). It looked for all the world that this game was over, but the Pats did have all three of their time outs. Bill Belichick likely risked going for it in that situation knowing that he had a full compliment of timeouts to work with. Anyways, the Saints were only able to muster a field goal out of that scenario after a third down and seven failure in which Drew Brees attempted a deep pass down the left sideline to Marques Colston. Sean Payton has always been a very aggressive coach and he allowed his great quarterback to try and get the team a first down through the air. Had the pass been completed the game would have been in serious jeopardy, however Alfonzo Dennard was able to swat the ball away and the Saints had to give it back to the Patriots with a little over two minutes left and one timeout.
Tom Brady threw an interception right away and with 2:16 and one timeout New England was forced into creating a three and out. In the end, things worked out; they were able to force a three and out using their final timeout and the two minute warning to stop the clock. Thus, following a Thomas Morstead punt, the Patriots had to go 70 yards in 1:13, and there are not too many people who would bet against Mr. Tom Brady in those situations. In 38 seconds, Brady was able to pick up 44 yards. Later, on a fourth and four Brady was able to find Austin Collie (remember this guy?) for the first down to the 17 yard line. After spiking the ball to stop the clock the play of the game was made when Brady hooked up with Kenbrell Thompkins in the back left corner of the end zone for the game winning touchdown (with five seconds left). We have seen this movie before, I’m pretty sure. Tom Brady proved to the world that it doesn’t matter who he has at wide receiver, he can lead his team to victory. This one was impressive and was, by far, the biggest win of the season for New England.
The Saints did suffer a pretty mild choke job after they were able to stop the Patriots on downs late in the fourth quarter. The incomplete pass (intended for Marques Colston) killed them. It is easy to say that they should have run the ball in that situation in hindsight, so for what it was worth I didn’t hate the play-call. I just thought that it was a low-percentage throw and that Brees should have either gone elsewhere with the ball or purposely eaten the sack just to keep the clock running. When a team turns the ball over on downs with 2:46 left, they should not get two more chances to score. New Orleans needed to do a better job working the clock so as to cement the win.
The Saints are by no means in trouble at 5-1. They have a pretty comfortable lead in the NFC South (since the 2-3 Panthers aren’t breathing down their necks). The team will have an extra week to think this one over as they draw a Week 7 BYE. New England will take on the Jets in a pretty important game as far as standings in the AFC East go. After this game, it is clear to me that this is still a very good Patriot team. They shut down Jimmy Graham and held the Saints offense to 361 total yards. Likewise, their own offense was able to do just enough to eek out a win in an instant classic. 5-1 is a more impressive record for Bill Belichick and the Pats (over Sean Payton and the Saints), however five wins to one loss is nothing to shake a stick at. Overall, this was a good win for the Patriots and a tough loss for New Orleans (although it was not a back-breaker by any means).