Foxboro, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - Tom Brady threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to lift the New England Patriots to a dramatic 30-27 win over the previously unbeaten New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.
Things didn't look promising for New England when rookie wideout Aaron Dobson dropped a 4th-down pass, causing the Patriots to turn the ball over on downs at their own 24-yard line trailing by a point with 2:46 left in the game.
New Orleans ran the ball on first and second down, with the Patriots calling a timeout after both plays. After Drew Brees threw an incompletion, Garrett Hartley kicked a 39-yard field goal to put the Saints up 27-23.
It became even more bleak for the Patriots as Brady was intercepted on first down of the ensuing drive.
However, the New England defense forced a second straight three-and-out. Brady got the ball back with 1:13 to play and the third time proved to be the charm as he orchestrated a game-winning drive.
Brady opened the decisive possession with a trio of completions, quickly advancing the ball from his 30 to the New Orleans 26. Facing 4th-and-4, he found newcomer Austin Collie for a second time on the drive and the wideout's 9-yard gain kept the comeback bid alive.
After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Brady, who had his streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown pass snapped in last week's loss at Cincinnati, hit Thompkins in the back left corner of the end zone.
"We said even if we miss the fourth-down play, we could still get the ball back at some point and go down and score," Brady said. "Our defense made a great stop. They punted the ball to the 25, 30 (yard-line) and guys made a bunch of plays there at the end. Guys made big-time catches."
Brady posted 269 yards on 25-of-43 passing for New England (5-1), which had several players get banged up in the last-second win. Wide receiver Danny Amendola (head), cornerback Aqib Talib (hip), linebacker Jerod Mayo (shoulder) and offensive lineman Dan Connolly (head) all left the game with injuries.
Talib, who played an integral role in Saints tight end Jimmy Graham being held without a catch, and Amendola were hurt in a third quarter during which New Orleans (5-1) erased a 10-point halftime deficit.
"Aqib really competed hard and in the end, I don't think either one of them were on the field," New England head coach Bill Belichick said about Talib's effort against Graham, who wound up leaving with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter. "Both guys ended up being out, but it was a great battle and a great matchup. I thought Talib battled him, went toe-to-toe with him the whole way. It was a good matchup."
The Saints produced points on each of their first two second-half drives to pull even at 17. Hartley converted a 28-yarder and rookie Khiry Robinson scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.
Amendola absorbed a vicious hit to the head on the next New England possession. He was clearly disorientated after being drilled by safety Rafael Bush near the sideline on a run. The Patriots were already playing without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was not given clearance to make his season debut.
Later in the drive, New England was able to regain the lead via Stephen Gostkowski's career-long 54-yard field goal.
Brees was then picked off early in the fourth quarter by cornerback Kyle Arrington, whose 5-yard return set New England up with a first down at the New Orleans 20. The Patriots, though, settled for a 23-yard Gostkowski field goal.
Down 23-17, Brees led the Saints on a 10-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a 34-yard TD pass to rookie wideout Kenny Stills on 3rd-and-20. The score put the visitors ahead with 3:29 to go.
The Saints went three-and-out on three of their five first-half drives. Brees did hook up with running back Travaris Cadet for a 3-yard touchdown in the opening quarter.
"New England did a very good job containing us," said Saints head coach Sean Payton. "Offensively, we had too many three-and-outs early on."
Stevan Ridley, back after missing last week's game due to knee and thigh injuries, ran for two second-quarter touchdowns to put New England up 17-7.
The Saints were driving before the break and were prepared to stick with the offense on 4th-and-1 from the New England 38. However, a questionable false start penalty forced them to punt.
Belichick earned his 210th win as a head coach, passing Chuck Noll for sole possession of fifth place on the NFL's all-time list ... Brady threw his 342nd career touchdown pass, tying him with Fran Tarkenton for the fourth-most in league history ... Brees completed 17-of-36 passes for 236 yards. He suffered his first loss in four games against New England ... The Saints have opened a season 6-0 twice before (1991 and 2009) ... Ridley had 96 yards on 20 carries ... The Patriots have forced a turnover in 33 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL ... Gostkowski now has nine career field goals of 50-plus yards, a new franchise record. He had been tied with Adam Vinatieri.