In the end, the Patriots were left with Tom Brady and seventy-three seconds. In the end, that was enough to defeat the undefeated New Orleans Saints. When Kenbrell Thompkins came down with that ball in the end zone, I nearly lost it. Ok, I did lose it. I've been known to get more than a little crazy during big moments for the Pats, but this victory got me particularly amped up. It wasn't just about getting to 5-1, or beating the Saints and Drew Brees. This win was about pure pride. I was proud of Tom Brady. I was proud of Kenbrell, and Aaron, and Julian, and Austin, and the amazing defense this team played all afternoon. After weeks and weeks of hearing how they weren't good enough. After a poor, poor showing last week that left even myself doubting if they were ready to tackle a team as good as the Saints, the Patriots displayed the resolve and determination that has come to define this organization. In that moment, I was as proud as I've even been to be a fan of the New England Patriots.
Post-season games aside, I'm having a hard time remembering a game that got me as pumped up as yesterday's.
2012's overtime comeback against the Jets? Nope.
2011's victory of Rob Ryan's Cowboys? Nope.
2010's overtime win against the Ravens? Close, but nope.
2009's opener against Buffalo where Brady came back after his injury and threw two touchdowns in the final two minutes to win? Closer, but not quite.
2008's come from behind win in Seattle to keep the playoff hopes alive? No.
2007's narrow win against Baltimore? Or how about the frantic win over the Giants to secure the undefeated 16-0 record? I think we've found our winners here.
Games like these are why we tune in every week. It's why I'm deathly afraid to miss a game. You only get a one high like this every season, maybe two if you're lucky. Wins as meaningful as yesterdays happen only once or twice per decade. And you know what? Seeing Rex Ryan's doppleganger moan on the sidelines after Brady's perfect game-winning throw was just icing on the cake!
Here's this week's Risers and Fallers.
Tom Brady (QB) - While he was far from perfect on Sunday, Brady did what he needed to do to get his team the win. With the Patriots high-flying offense racking up big leads for the majority of the past 4-5 seasons, we haven't been able to witness much of the magic that Brady performed week in and week out in his early years. That was a vintage game-winning drive that was run to near perfection.
Kenbrell Thompkins (WR) - The rookie had a relatively quiet day, but came up with some big grabs (none bigger than his final one) and didn't make any major mistakes.
Stephen Gostkowski (K) - The Ghost was incredible once again, nailing a crucial career-long 54 yarder. Gostkowski has simply been on fire this season.
Aqib Talib (DB) – While his day was cut short due to a hip injury, Talib was nothing short of spectacular with his shut-down coverage of Jimmy Graham. No insult to Ty Law, but I'm struggling to remember a time when the Patriots had such a dominant corner.
Stevan Ridley (RB) - Ex-Foxboro Blog contributor, Stephen Sheehan told me before the game that Ridley would have to have a huge game for the Patriots to beat the Saints. Two touchdowns and 96 yards later, and Stephen was proved right.
Michael Hoomanawanui (TE) - Early on in the game, he had me saying, "Gronk who?"
Somewhere in the middle:
Aaron Dobson (WR) - I want to put Dobson on the risers list for his contributions to the game-winning drive. However, his drop to start the game and his follow-up drop on 4th down late in the game prevent me from doing so.
Steve Gregory (S) - The veteran made a bad read and came up a second too short on the Saints final touchdown play. It was a near-fatal mistake.
Marcus Cannon (DT) - Subbing in for the injured Dan Connolly, Cannon allowed Brady to be pancaked on his first snap.
Brandon Bolden (RB) - Bolden continues to drop wide-open passes, the worst of which prevented a Patriots first down after the Saints took the lead late in the 4th.
Danny Amendola (WR) - I know it's not his fault, but another injury is the last thing this team needed from him.