Final, 30-27 Patriots: It’s over. Pats win. Unbelievable.
Brady did it with passes to Edelman, Austin Collie, Dobson and Thompkins. It was one for the ages.
Fourth quarter, :05, 30-27 Patriots: Oh. My. Word.
Not sure where Tom Brady kept that drive hidden for all of the second half, but he just dominated. He deliberately drove the Patriots all the way into the end zone for an incredible comeback to take the lead with just 5 seconds left on the clock.
It was capped off with a perfect pass to Kenbrell Thompkins touchdown in the back left corner of the end zone.
There is going to be a lot to analyze from this game, and plenty to talk about, but for now, there is just hits: Holy moly.
Fourth quarter, 1:13, 27-23 Saints: The Pats will get one last chance.
Facing a third-and-7 from the 33-yard line after the two-minute warning, the Saints broke the huddle and lined up in a tight formation. Brees rolled out for a naked bootleg, expecting to catch the Patriots off guard, but Chandler Jones was there to make the tackle and force a punt.
First-and-10 for the Patriots from their own 28. It’ll take a miracle now.
Fourth quarter, 2:16, 27-23: Well. That didn’t work out.
Tom Brady made a curious decision to throw a long bomb to Julian Edelman, who wasn’t even looking for the ball and had two white jerseys around him.
Keenan Lewis saw it all the way and went up and got Brady’s pass.
The Saints will win, they just need to run down the clock.
Fourth quarter, 2:24, 27-23 Saints: So you’re saying there’s a chance?
It won’t be easy, but Tom Brady will get one more crack at a comeback here in the fourth quarter after the defense not only stops New Orleans but leaves 2:24 on the clock and keeps a timeout in Bill Belichick’s back pocket. The Saints passed incomplete on third down, which couldprove costly.
Fourth quarter, 2:46, 24-23 Saints: Bad execution, and things are looking grim for New England.
A bad pass and a small gain on first down to Hoomanawanui was followed by a Bolden drop on second down and a Dobson drop on fourth-and-6, and the Saints take over on the New England 24-yard line.
The Pats’ only hope now is to hold the Saints to a field goal and then drive for a touchdown. The Pats have all three timeouts plus the two-minute warning.
Fourth quarter, 3:29, 24-23 Saints: And that’s why the Saints are dangerous.
Facing a third-and-20 from the 34-yard line, Drew Brees dropped back and waited for Kenny Stills to make it to the end zone. Stills was covered tightly by Alfonzo Dennard, and as Dennard went up to try to defend the pass, Stills subtly pushed the corner in the back to create enough separation. As the ball came down, Dennard’s arm just missed it, and Stills hauled it in just before safety Steve Gregory came over the top.
It was the perfect play, and it gave the Saints the lead.
Tom Brady and the offense will get the ball with 3:29 left.
Fourth quarter, 3:48, 23-17 Patriots: It’s getting good now.
The Saints are driving, with big runs by Brees and Khiry Robinson, but an offensive holding call just cost them 20 yards, as it negated a 10-yard completion and set them up with a first-and-20 from the New England 34-yard line. Drew Brees called timeout before the snap, and the Saints now have just one. This is the drive right here. The Pats can let the Saints get 33 yards, but they can’t give up 34.
Fourth quarter, 8:34, 23-17 Patriots: The Pats can’t make the most of their fortuitous field position, with Bolden getting stuffed on consecutive runs, leading to a fourth-and-goal. The Pats went for the field goal, with Gostkowski drilling the 23-yard chip shot to stretch the lead.
Yet that lead is just six points, and the Saints are always a threat to put seven in a hurry. The defense is going to need to make at least one more stand against Drew Brees and Co.
Fourth quarter, 12:10, 20-17 Patriots: That’s the big play the Patriots needed. After a Chandler Jones sack, the Patriots made Brees uncomfortable in the collapsing pocket. The quarterback overthrew Jimmy Graham, with his pass hitting Kyle Arrington instead. The pick sets the Patriots up at the 20-yard line as they look to make it a two-score game.
Fourth quarter, 13:43, 20-17 Patriots: Well, defense has taken over this game. Rob Ryan dialed up a blitz for Malcolm Jenkins, who had a free lane to Tom Brady for a sack on third-and-6. That was the Saints’ fifth sack of the day.
Saints take over, first-and-10, at their own 15.
End of third quarter, 20-17 Patriots: The Saints barely have the ball for a minute, going three-and-out and giving it right back to the Patriots’ offense.
The Pats had a first-and-10 from their own 42-yard line, with Blount picking up a yard, before the quarter ended.
The team announced that Danny Amendola will not return due to a head injury, which isn’t surprising, because that one looked grisly.
Third quarter, 1:36, 20-17 Patriots: There was an offensive holding penalty on the play on which Amendola was injured, pushing the Patriots to a second-and-19 situation. They didn’t convert, but they picked up just enough on third down to get into Gostkowski’s range, and the kicker booted a 54-yard beauty to retake the lead for the Pats.
It was the ninth career 50-plus yard field goal for Gostkowski, passing Adam Vinatieri for most in franchise history.
Gostkowksi followed it up by sending the ensuing kickoff out of the back of the end zone.
Third quarter, 2:47, 17-17: Rafael Bush just launched himself helmet-first right into the side of Danny Amendola’s head. Amendola went down and stayed down, and he made his way to the locker room with the training staff. That did not look good, and for a guy who’s fighting as hard as he is to stay on the field, you hate to see that.
Third quarter, 3:23, 17-17: Two updates you need to know. First, the Patriots picked up 15 yards when Malcolm Jenkins drove his helmet through Kenbrell Thompkins’ facemask. That was a big pickup. The Pats are driving, first-and-10 at the New Orleans 32.
Also, Aqib Talib’s injury is his hip, and his return is questionable.
Third quarter, 6:19, 17-17: Bad news for the Patriots: The Saints scored to tie the game.
Potentially much, much worse news for the Patriots: Aqib Talib is injured and in the locker room.
Earlier this quarter, Talib had briefly left the field to head to the locker room with Dr. Thomas Gill, but he returned shortly thereafter, jogging back to the sidelines. His return didn’t last long though, and he was clearly in a lot of pain this time around. It looked like his left leg, but it’s hard to be sure. Regardless, I don’t anticipate he’ll be back.
The Saints got their touchdown by tearing right through the Pats’ defense, never once facing a third down on the 67-yard drive.
Third quarter, 10:26, 17-10 Patriots: And it was the latter for the Patriots, who went three-and-out after a long gain by Dobson was wiped away by an offensive pass interference penalty.
Back to it for Drew Brees, who gets the ball at his own 33 looking to tie the game up at 17.
Third quarter, 11:27, 17-10 Patriots: Just as the Pats opened the first half with a field goal they wish was a touchdown, the Saints do the same in the second half.
Brees and the offense looked somewhat more like their usual selves on that drive, with back-to-back big gains on passes to Sproles and Watson to get into New England territory.
But on third-and-8 from the Pats’ 10, Brees missed an open Nick Toon at the goal line, and the receiver could just barely get a hand on the pass, forcing the Saints to settle for a field goal.
It’ll take more than field goals to win this game, so the Pats’ defense has to feel OK about the way that drive ended.
This is an important drive for the Pats’ offense. Points here, and that field goal is negated. A short drive and a punt, and the Saints are one play away from tying the game.
Third quarter, 15:00, 17-7 Patriots: Gostkowski’s kick is a touchback, and the Saints will start it first-and-10 from their 20.
Halftime, 17-7 Patriots: The first half ends with but a whimper, as Tom Brady takes another sack (fourth of the day) setting up a third-and-17 that didn’t work.
With just four ticks on the clock on fourth down, Brady took a hit to the stats by lofting a ball a mile out of bounds to kill the clock and bring us to halftime.
You have to wonder how and why Jimmy Graham still has zero catches. Talib has played some tight defense on him on a couple of targets, but he’s big enough and strong enough where he should be getting open and hauling in some passes.
Stats-wise, Ridley is the man right now, as he has 61 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, as well as one catch for 14 yards. Aaron Dobson, despite the drop on the first offensive snap, has been Brady’s go-to guy, with five catches for 57 yards. But Brady’s spread it around, connecting with seven different receivers in the first half.
The Saints are very much in it though. They’re getting consistent pressure on Brady, and Drew Brees can’t be held down for the whole game. Except a pretty wild second half.
Second quarter, 2:00, 17-7 Patriots: The Saints were driving, and they were going to try to pick up a first down on a fourth-and-1 from the Patriots’ 38-yard line, but a false start ruined those plans.
Saints will punt on the other side of the two-minute warning.
Second quarter, 4:49, 17-7 Patriots: The Pats’ D forced another three-and-out, but Brady and the offense doesn’t generate anything, with a drive that ends in a Brady sack.
Saints take over first-and-10 from their own 23-yard line looking to tighten things up before the half.
Second quarter, 7:36, 17-7 Patriots: Michael Hoomanawanui has the longest name of any jersey on the field, but the Saints seemingly can’t keep track of him.
He ran straight across the middle of the field all alone on a third-and-18 from the New England 26-yard line. Brady showed tremendous patience and poise to stand tall in the pocket, tiptoe around the rush and eventually wait for Hooman to break free, hitting the tight end in stride for a huge gain of 19. It was the play of the game to this point.
Hoomanwanui picked up another first down later in the drive for a gain of 13, and Ridley capped off the drive with his second touchdown of the day.
That was a 66-yard drive for Brady, who now has 163 yards, and the Patriots have a 10-point lead and all the momentum.
Second quarter, 12:28, 10-7 Patriots: Just as I said we had a shootout on our hands, the Saints’ O goes cold.
Drew Brees had three incompletions, the last one intended for Jimmy Graham over the middle, and the Pats’ D comes up with a big three-and-out stop to get the ball back to the offense.
Second quarter, 13:00, 10-7 Patriots: The Patriots answer with a big-time scoring drive of their own, capped off with a Ridley 1-yard run for the score.
The Pats got there when Keenan Lewis was called for pass interference on Aaron Dobson in the end zone on third down, a call that I didn’t necessarily agree with. But they don’t ask for my opinion, and the Pats took advantage, handing to Ridley on second down.
The Pats now have the lead back, and we might be looking at a bit of a shootout here in Foxboro today.
End of first quarter, 7-3 Saints: The Patriots’ offense is looking good on this drive, and they’re wasting no time.
They picked up 20 yards on the first play of the drive when Brady hit Dobson on a comeback along the right sideline. Two plays later, Stevan Ridley returned to the offense with a nice cutback run up the gut for a gain of 18 yards. And in the last play before the quarter ended, Brady hit Dobson on a deep out to the left side, and the rookie hauled it in for a gain of 18 yards.
It will be first-and-10 from the New Orleans 15 when the quarter begins.
First quarter, 1:46, 7-3 Saints: The Saints put on quite the offensive show, driving from their own 27-yard line all the way down to the Patriots’ 3, facing a third-and-goal after getting stopped twice.
Brees took a shotgun snapped, looked to left and waited patiently for Travaris Cadet to get open. Cadet faked like he was running a slant, planted and turned to the outside, and he made the catch before falling across the goal line.
The play of the drive was a second-and-13 fake end-around screen to Pierre Thomas on the left side. He had room to operate, ran right over Alfonzo Dennard and wasn’t brought down until he had gained 29 yards and gotten the Saints out of trouble.
In all, it was a nine-play, 73-yard drive that took 5:23 off the clock and gave the Saints a 7-3 lead.
First quarter, 7:09, 3-0 Patriots: Ryan Allen let out a boomer (56 yards) and Marquice Cole was a mad man in pursuit of Darren Sproles, and he held him to just a 3-yard return. Saints take over first-and-10 at their own 27-yard line.
The Pats drive could have been better if Bolden hadn’t stumbled after catching a screen on first-and-10, costing him at least five yards. Bolden’s third-and-5 run came up a yard short, and the Pats were forced to punt.
First quarter, 8:55, 3-0 Patriots: The big question this week was who will cover Jimmy Graham? The answer early on was Aqib Talib, who broke up a pass on second-and-9 intended for the Saints’ tight end. The defense ended up forcing a punt.
It was on that punt where the Patriots got silly.
Julian Edelman, who returned to the game after getting looked at on the sidelines on the opening drive, caught the punt, ran right and tried an absolutely idiotic lateral to Aqib Talib, who was nowhere near the ball. Talib was lucky to be able to get to the ball before five white jerseys got to it, but that’s a needless risk to take that was made worse by awful execution.
Regardless, the Patriots have first-and-10 from their own 11-yard line.
First quarter, 9:54, 3-0 Patriots: The Pats get points on the opening drive, but not the kind they wanted.
They were moving the ball nicely, with big third down conversions by Edelman on a 15-yard catch-and-run and a most surprising 11-yard scramble by Tom Brady, during which he high-stepped his way over defenders to pick up the first down. Didn’t see that one coming.
But the drive stalled when Blount was stopped in the backfield on second down from inside the 10, and Brady was sacked on third down when the Saints dropped eight into coverage.
Gostkowski hit a 35-yard field goal to cap off the 14-play, 60-yards, 5:06 scoring drive.
First quarter, 13:01, 0-0: The Patriots are driving, but Julian Edelman is getting attention on the sidelines after getting hit while his left leg was planted in the turf. That bears watching, obviously, as he’s been Brady’s best and most reliable target this season.
He just ran an option route and caught a pass in stride for a gain of 15 on a third-and-4. The Pats have a first-and-10 on the Saints’ 40-yard line.
First quarter, 14:55: Thomas Morstead’s kick went into the end zone, LeGarrette Blount returned it 29 yards, and the Patriots will start first-and-10 from the 23-yard line.
4:23 p.m.: New Orleans won the toss and elected to defer until the second half.
The Patriots will start today’s game on offense.
4:18 p.m.: The Patriots always like to invite groups to the field to welcome the Patriots to the field, and today, with all the pink you see in the NFL, they invited breast cancer survivors.
4:12 p.m.: It’s just about time for kickoff, but before the Patriots even take the field, they’ve already gained some ground in the AFC East. The Jets lost to the previously winless Steelers in New Jersey earlier, dropping the Jets to 3-3 on the season.
The Bills are currently in overtime with the Bengals, so that one remains TBD.
2:54 p.m.: Rob Gronkowski will be inactive today for the Patriots in what is not a terribly surprising bit of information.
In addition to Tommy Kelly, Matthew Slater and Leon Washington (both were ruled out on Friday), Gronkowski is on the inactive list with Josh Boyce, Chris Barker and Tavon Wilson.
That means that Austin Collie will be suited up for the Pats today. That could be considered bad news for Josh Boyce, who hasn’t been a part of the offense at all this season, but it’ll be interesting to get an eye on Collie.
2 p.m.: Welcome from Gillette Stadium, where the sun is shining and football will be played 150 minutes from now.
It’s a gorgeous fall day, perfect for football, but all the news surrounding the Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski this morning was anything but sunny.
ESPN reported there to be some resentment in the Patriots locker room from players toward Gronkowski toward his prolonged absence from the field.
“There’s curiosity and resentment, and he’s creating it by going out and kicking ass during the week [at practice] and then he doesn’t show up on game day and help the team win,” a source told ESPN’s Ed Werder.
“Teammates and coaches have seen him run patterns, catch passes, use his arm to pass protect, run block and to separate from defenders at the line of scrimmage, and they doubt a doctor would allow so much contact if there remained serious concern about the health of his forearm,” Werder reported.
Last night, Pro Football Talk reported that Dr. James Andrews advised Gronkowski to not play today, so the perceived disconnect between the team and Gronkowski continues to grow wider.
Alas, Gronkowski or no Gronkowski, this game will go on. The Saints, as you know, are very good, and this is by far the most difficult challenge the Patriots have faced this year.
And here’s what it looks like at Gillette right now:
And here’s what the pink Gameday program looks like this afternoon:
I’ll provide any and all pregame updates, including the inactives, leading up to kickoff, as well as full detail and analysis all game long. Keep it here throughout the afternoon and evening.