With Gillette Stadium nearly half-empty, the fans figuring the New England Patriots had thrown away their last chance, Tom Brady delivered a drive to savor Sunday.
Taking over at his 30 with 73 seconds remaining, no timeouts left and the Patriots trailing the unbeaten New Orleans Saints 27-23, here is how a vintage Brady rallied his team to a 30-27 win:
— First-and-10 at Patriots 30, 1:13 left — Brady gets New England moving, hits Julian Edelman deep over the middle for 23 yards.
The key to the drive was "just getting it started," Edelman said. "We started it off, played with urgency."
— First-and-10 at Saints 47, :53 — Brady and the Patriots hurry to the line, he throws over the middle to Austin Collie for 15 yards.
Collie, playing his first game with the Patriots after signing as a free agent, said, having "such a great quarterback ... makes your job a lot easier, just the trust that the last thing that I was worrying about was where the ball was going to be."
— First-and-10 at Saints 32, :39 — Brady knows he has time, is confident to work inside, completes to Aaron Dobson for 6 yards.
— Second-and-4 at Saints 26, :35 — Brady throws incomplete deep down the middle to Edelman. The miss gives New England a moment to regroup.
— Third-and-4 at Saints 26, :30 — Brady again looks for Edelman, but the veteran receiver drops the ball inside the 5. Now the Patriots are down to a final chance to keep the drive going.
— Fourth-and-4 at Saints 26, :24 — Brady comes through, hits Collie on the left side for 9 yards. The Saints tackle him inbounds, the clock keeps running.
"He's earned the confidence of everybody," Brady said of Collie. "We had a situation where we put him on the field and see what he could do."
— First-and-10 at Saints 17, :11 — Brady quickly puts the Patriots in position and spikes the ball, stopping the clock.
"We just knew that it was going to come down to the last minute," rookie Kenbrell Thompkins said. "Until that clock said all zeros on it, we were going to fight until the finish."
— Second-and-10 at Saints 17, :10 — Brady looks every bit a three-time Super Bowl champion, hitting Thompkins high over the outstretched arms of defensive back Jabari Greer in the left corner of the end zone with 5 seconds left.
Brady "gave him a good, high ball and K.T. has good timing," coach Bill Belichick told reporters. "Sorry if you had to rewrite some of those stories."
It is Brady's 342nd career TD pass and the 37th time he's led the Patriots to victory from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie.
"Tom is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game," running back Stevan Ridley said. "What more can you ask out of your leader? He put the team on his back and went out there and made the plays we needed to make."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org