Bill Belichick has put together some outstanding squads over the years. Dominant teams that could beat an opponent in any manner. Talented teams that could beat an opponent with any one on one match up. Opportunistic teams that could beat an opponent through their own mistakes. Confident teams that could beat an opponent merely by believing they could.
Teams that have produced 155 wins, ten trips to the playoffs, five AFC Championships, and three Super Bowl rings. But perhaps none have shown the sheer resiliency of the 2013 version of the New England Patriots. A cloud of controversy and confusion has hung over these “Minute Men” since the summer. Losses through free agency, through criminal conduct, and through reoccurring injury have at times made the only reliable and recognizable player #12 (Tom Brady).
This past Week 6 in the NFL, the Patriots faced what might be a defining moment in the eventual outcome of their 2013 season. Facing the undefeated New Orleans Saints and seven time Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees, Brady and company found themselves down 27-23, ten seconds left, ball on the Saints’ 17, 2nd down and ten.
Through the breakdown and analysis of Oliver Thomas, NEPatriotsDraft.com, here’s what happened.
The Football Educator
Moment of Resiliency: Tom Brady, Kenbrell Thompkins, and the Last-Second Touchdown over Saints
By Oliver Thomas – NEPatriotsDraft.com
A 10-point halftime lead, as well as four starters, departed from the New England Patriots’ Week 6 battle against the undefeated New Orleans Saints. And with 2:24 remaining, the Patriots found themselves with the football, down 27-23, searching for the energy that had been vacuumed out of Gillette Stadium.
Yet at that juncture, all quarterback Tom Brady found was Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis on a downfield interception. New Orleans took control once again, running the ball three times and expiring New England’s last timeout. Head coach Sean Payton and his Saints squad could not expire the contest, however, as a vital three-and-out by the defense sent the Patriots offense back onto the field with 1:13 left.
That was all it took.
New England’s final drive started at its own 30-yard line. A deep centerfield throw to slot target Julian Edelman picked up 23. From there, the Patriots no-huddle offense found recently-signed veteran Austin Collie for another 15.
The Patriots had been in this scenario before. Just last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, the offense had a chance to tie or win with under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Although instead, 27 yards from the end zone, Brady tossed an interception in the direction of rookie route-runner Aaron Dobson.
This time, from the 32, Brady found different results. He dialed up Dobson on a six-yard pass near the right sideline. But following that completion, Brady saw his next two passes fall incomplete in the direction of Edelman. So, on 4th-and-4, New England needed something short, something simple and timely.
And an in-seam comeback route from Collie provided head coach Bill Belichick and Co. with just that.
The offense scurried back to the line, and Brady spiked the ball with 10 seconds left. New England had enough time for one, maybe two shots into touchdown territory. Anything less would be mortal.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels shipped out “11” personnel with tight end Michael Hoomanawanui off-line and halfback Brandon Bolden flanking Brady in shotgun. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan reacted with a 4-1 dime package with four down linemen and linebacker Curtis Lofton acting as the only members of the front.
For the Patriots, it would be about eclipsing off coverage with four verticals. At the “Z,” Dobson was set to run a fade opposite left cornerback Keenan Lewis. At the “Y,” Hoomanawanui was set to run a pick route/thin post, dragging dimeback Corey White and strong safety Kenny Vaccaro with him. At tailback, Bolden was set to slip through the B-gap and out into the flat. In the slot, Collie was set to run a skinny post, pulling safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rafael Bush inside the numbers.