Allow me to set the stage.
The New Orleans Saints are holding a 27-23 lead over the New England Patriots late in the 4th quarter. Most of the stadium had emptied out a few minutes before, as that's what Patriots fans do when their team isn't winning. Scattered pockets of die-hards pepper the stands, forced to endure the revelry and celebrations of the Saints fans who made the trip up to Foxboro. The game seemed pretty much in the bag as the seconds wound down, and reasons for optimism were waning.
Then, all of a sudden, a low but steady rumble begins to emerge from way up in section 331. The rumble starts to grow, and the Patriots fans left at the game turn their eyes skyward. There a rotund and clearly hydrated fan can be seen yelling as loud as he can and jumping up and down in the aisles, his belly fat jiggling in hypnotic undulations reminiscent of a lava lamp. He's screaming himself hoarse, the peanut shells are flying off his jacket, and he will likely be the subject of childhood nightmares for years to come, but he's still there, and he's cheering, dammit. Following his lead, the few remaining Foxboro faithful get up and start cheering their team on, knowing that giving Tommy B a solid minute and no timeouts to engineer a game-winning drive is more than enough time. With surgical precision, Brady marches down the field and hits rookie Kenbrell Thompkins for a 17 yard TD pass with 5 seconds left on the clock and the Patriots win the game. The Saints are handed their first loss, and the Patriots are 5-1.
Did the mystery fan in the stands orchestrate the win? We'll never know. And just who was the massive mystery man who never gave up hope and started the cheer that engineered the game-winning drive? We may never know that either. But one thing is for sure - yesterday's game is going to go down in history as one of Tom Brady's all-time great comebacks, and I was there to see it live.
- For a 4:25 game to Gillette, I had to leave NYC early in the morning yesterday, and I didn't get home until 2:30 AM. The whole experience was almost 24 straight hours long. And then I woke up this morning and rewatched the entire game - every snap, every play - in 33 minutes.
- I was still getting to my seat when the game started, so I missed a good chunk of the first drive. Pretty solid drive overall, highlighted by some pretty sweet looking Tommy B scrambles. I can never tell if Brady is running at full speed or if he's leisurly ambling, looking for a nice patch of grass to lie down on.
- Obviously it would have been better if the drive had ended in a touchdown, but there was a good balance of run and pass and a lot of receivers were targeted. That's the kind of football this team needs.
- That, and less drops.
- Oh...and maybe Gronk might want to think about coming back at some point.
- I have absolutely no idea what was going on with that Edelman to Talib trick play on the punt. I don't know what was more concerning about that - what a horrible idea it was or that the first pass I ever saw the former college QB throw was a floppy lame duck that strongly resembled my own throwing mechanics.
- Very solid day from Joe Vellano yesterday. Stout against the run and occupied the necessary gaps - very much like the Pepto Bismol I have been chugging all morning.
- Not so much for Marcus Cannon, though. Got knocked flat on his ass a few times and the backs had a hard time running behind him.
- Some of the catches that Aaron Dobson made yesterday remind us all why we drafted him so high. Then of course a ball would bounce right off his hands and we remember that he's still a rookie.
- Guess who benched Stevan Ridley again in both of his fantasy leagues again?
- Hoo-man had his best game as a Patriot yesterday, in my opinion. Not only did he come back to Tommy B as an outlet receiver and produced some great first downs, but he had himself a helluva day as a blocking tight end. Bailed Cannon out on more than one occasion.
- Aqib Talib is the best cornerback in the NFL right now. Absolutely lights out and it doesn't matter who he has to cover.
- "The Saints don't have a first down in this quarter...until now." That's it...you just made the list, Thom Brennaman.
- I can imagine that there will be a lot of Saints fans complaining about the refs today, upset about false start calls and missed holds and various other reasons why New Orleans lost. And to be honest, there were a few questionable calls that went New England's way. But there's a reason the Saints lost this game, and I'll tell you right now it isn't the reffing.
- Quick rant, if I may: Sean Payton is back this year after a year-long suspension for running a football team that offered incentives and rewards for injuring other players. Peyton may not have been the one tangibly putting bounties on players, but he was aware of it, he did nothing to stop it, and since it all boils down to the head coach at the end of the day, the Saints' bounty system is on him. Now he's back, and his return is triumphant, courageous, and an exemplar of putting your past behind you and moving on with your life after learning from your mistakes. Nobody is saying a damn thing about BountyGate. SpyGate happened six years ago. There was a coaching assistant pointing a camera at a sideline six years ago. Belichick never incentivized causing other players injury. Yet people still bring up that taping scandal. End rant.
- On the long play to Ben Watson early in the 3rd quarter that set up a New Orleans, field goal, Chris Jones ran around in a complete circle and looked like he had completely forgotten what his job was. What's the deal with Jake Bequette?
- Tommy B can't miss these wide open receivers like that. Danny Amendola was gone if that pass is on target.
- What happened to the run defense in the 2nd half?
- Heyyy weird Amendola is hurt again. See you in four weeks, Danny.
- Remember when everyone thought that Stephen Gostkowski had lost his mojo?
- New England wasn't able to generate a ton of pressure on Drew Brees, but they generated enough to keep him on the move and didn't allow him to set his feet, which got the job done.
- New Orleans, however, had no problem sacking Tommy B.
- With the way Ridley was running (and even Bolden, for that matter), why did the Patriots keep running Blount?
- Chandler Jones's new sack dance is such a massive upgrade I don't even know how to accurately describe it.
- Three straight runs on goal to go followed by a field goal when a touchdown could potentially have iced the game. How about that arm, Gronk?
- Thank God Talib got hurt too. I was worried that New England wouldn't lose a key cog in every possible skill position this season.
- I will never, ever understand the playcalling going for it on 4th and 6 at your own 24 with two times outs and the 2 minute warning.
- Of course, consecutive drops on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th downs may have something to do with my confusion.
- Gillette emptied out as soon as Keenan Lewis intercepted Tommy B. My group was the only one left in my row, surrounded by cheering Saints fans.
- "Who the hell is #10?" says everyone left in the stadium.
- KENBRELL THOMPKINS!!! YOU BEAUTIFUL MAN YOU!
- I could really get used to the Rob Ryan "who farted?" face following a 4th quarter Brady-led game winning drive.
- I will say this: Saints fans are good people. I somehow found myself surrounded by them yesterday and they were as friendly as you'd expect people who live in one of the best cities in America would be. If I was on the losing end of a drive like that, I wouldn't have spoken a work to anyone as I huffed on out of the stadium.