Saints vs. Patriots: Takeaways from New England's 30-27 Win over New Orleans
It looked bad for Tom Brady and company after two straight failed chances to lead a last-minute drive down only one and four points, respectively. The third time was the charm; Brady found Kenbrell Thompkins in the back of the end zone with just five seconds left to seal the 30-27 win.
It looks like the victory might have come at a high cost. The Pats had multiple injuries during the game to impact players. Somehow the scrappy Patriots just keep finding a way to win, but how long can they continue to do so as the injuries mount?
Here are our takeaways from a miracle win.
Aaron Dobson Is Showing Some Promise
Aaron Dobson led the Patriots with six catches for 63 yards. Despite a notable drop on fourth down in the fourth quarter that would've sustained a drive, he had his best game as a pro.
His alert quick catch on the final drive and ability to get out of bounds to stop the clock was important and made up for his earlier miscue.
Overall, Dobson looked the most comfortable he's been all year Sunday.
The Patriots continue to take shots down the field to Dobson. It's only a matter of time before he starts coming up with them.
It took a while, but Dobson is finally starting to flash the potential that made him a second-round pick.
Stevan Ridley Is Just the Spark the Offense Needed
Stevan Ridley had 96 yards on 20 carries for two touchdowns.
He provided a spark to the offense that was lacking against the Bengals. Ridley looked explosive and hit the holes hard.
And most importantly, he didn't fumble.
It looks like the effect of the injury that caused him to miss last week is behind him.
His day included a 19-yard run and a 14-yard reception. Most impressive, though? Ridley's work in short-yardage situations, an area in which the Pats' offense has struggled this year.
Ridley was a big catalyst against the Saints, and it's becoming clear he's the No. 1 back on this roster by a lot.
Kenbrell Thompkins Makes the Play of the Season
Kenbrell Thompkins had a quiet day until the final offensive play of the game. He would finish with just three catches on six targets for the day, but it's the last one that no one will forget.
It's been a grind all year for the Patriots offense, but the electric game-winning touchdown is the kind of spark that can ignite a team.
Thompkins continues to show the ability to get open. As he gains more confidence, he'll get even better. Big plays like the game-winning touchdown are just the plays he needs to make.
Thompkins now has 21 catches on the year and four touchdowns. He and Dobson are slowly becoming a solid duo.
The Rookie Defensive Tackles Did Pretty Well
The biggest weak point on the Patriots defense has to be their rookie tandem of defensive tackles, Joe Vellano and Chris Jones. Despite giving up 5.0 yards per carry and 361 yards of total offense, the front of the defense held up pretty well.
While the back end of the coverage did its job, the front did well holding its ground, with the Pats going to a 3-4 base defense without Vince Wilfork and Kelly.
It wasn't perfect, but if Jones and Vellano can continue to improve, they might find a long-term opportunity with the tackle-needy Pats.
Anytime your defense can hold Drew Brees under 50 percent passing, it's a good day.
Injuries Keep Coming
The injury parade continued on Sunday, with Dan Connolly, Aqib Talib, Jerod Mayo and Danny Amendola all leaving the game and not returning.
Marcus Cannon struggled early replacing Connolly at guard, but he seemed to find a groove in the second half, at least in the ground game.
Talib appeared to pull up with tightness in his hip, something that bothered him this season. The Pats managed to get by with Devin McCourty taking over Talib's role late in the game.
Amendola's injury was scary. He looked unconscious at first, then wobbled as he walked off the field. It's possible he'll miss some significant time again this season.
The Pats have gotten by without Amendola and can continue to do so, but the loss of Talib would be another huge hurdle to overcome. Talib held Jimmy Graham without a catch while covering him and has been a shutdown corner this season.
Mayo left the stadium in a sling.
These injuries will be something to monitor this Wednesdsay when the injury report comes out.
Patriots Defense Comes Through in the Clutch...Kinda...
In a perfect world, the Patriots defense would've forced the Saints to punt late in the fourth quarter when the Pats still had a six-point lead.
Instead the defense gave up a touchdown.
But over the last two Saints possessions, the Pats defense didn't give up a first down and yielded just a field goal to keep it a one-score game.
The Pats defense was masterful in the first half, but injuries seemed to take their toll in the second half. Overall, the Pats defense once again played a good game and kept the offense in it just enough to still win.
They held Drew Brees to six drives of three plays either ending in punts or interceptions. That's exceptional work from a defense that now has a prominent feather in the cap.
Tom Brady Still Has Some Magic Left
Brady was efficient in the first half and dreadful for most of the second. After two flat attempts to bring the team back, there was no reason to think he would do it on the third try with no timeouts left.
But Brady went 5-of-8 for 70 yards on the final drive when it counted the most.
Rob Ryan's defensive scheme got to Brady a lot, with the Saints logging five sacks. But Brady stayed focused and came through in the clutch. There hasn't been much Patriots magic around New England this year, but Brady's clutch performance was a throwback for the ages.
The Patriots Are 5-1
It certainly hasn't been the kind of offensive wizardry Patriots fans might be used to, but the team continues to get by and win games despite its shortcomings. This is the sign of a good team.
It's hard to remember a season filled with more injuries to so many key players, but the Patriots have shown heart and fight, even when it looked like they had lost the game. Again, the sign of a good team.