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Bill Belichick breaks down game-winning drive vs. Saints

10.14.13 at 1:16 pm ET
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A day after one of the most dramatic wins his team has enjoyed in the last few seasons — a victory that took “five years off ]his] life” — he joked Sunday afternoon — Patriots coach Bill Belichick broke down the game-winning drive on a conference call with the media, saying he was “really proud” of his team and the way it responded down the stretch.

Belichick started his breakdown off the top, setting the stage for what would become the 38th game-winning drive of Tom Brady‘s professional career.

“We had the ball with a little over a minute and no timeouts,” he said. “We needed to go 70 yards, we had to get the ball down the field. The first play, I think we ran four receivers and hit [Julian] Edelman down the seam [for 23 yards], and that got us into New Orleans territory. At least at that point, you felt like you may have a shot to throw for the end zone. We felt like we had a little bit of time to execute a couple plays, especially if we could get out of bounds.”

With 53 seconds left, Brady connected on a 15-yarder to Austin Collie on another one over the middle, and a 6-yarder to Aaron Dobson on the right.

“I think Tom hit Collie over the middle on an in cut,” Belichick recalled. “Between the seam and the in cut, that gave us a decent chunk of yardage. I think they were playing off the receivers a little bit, after we completed that second pass to Collie. Tom threw out to [Aaron] Dobson, really trying to stop the clock and Aaron did a good job of getting out of bounds. We were kind of fortunate to get out of bounds there — it certainly wouldn’€™t have been worth it to pick up five yards and get tackled in bounds so getting out of bounds was really the key play there.”

That left the Patriots with a second-and-4 at the New Orleans 26. After a pair of deep balls to Edelman down the middle fell incomplete, that brought up a fourth down with 24 seconds remaining. Brady hit Collie again on a 9-yarder.

“However much time there was left — like 30-some seconds — we again tried to hit Edelman down the seam,” Belichick said. “[It was] similar to the first play of the drive which was close, and then we tried to hit him, we were running vertical routes and Edelman came clean a little bit on the second one there over the middle — sort of across the field, sort of a crossing route when Tom stepped up in the pocket. We didn’€™t quite get that that one, so then it was fourth down, and there was still a decent amount of time left, somewhere around 30 seconds or something like that. Then we had a play that we wanted to get the first down on, which that was the option route there to Collie.”

Operating out of the shotgun, Brady took the snap and locked on to Kenbrell Thompkins, who was flying down the New Orleans sideline on the outside toward the end zone in what appeared to be single coverage. He put the ball up and over New Orleans corner Jabari Greer in the corner of the end zone, and the rookie came down with it.

“Then with 10 seconds left, we felt like we had two plays to get the ball in the end zone,” Belichick said. “it looked like they played quarters coverage across the board, they were kind of singled up on our four wide receivers with some underneath help from the linebackers. KT got outside of [Jabari] Greer, Tom put the ball over Greer and outside of him and KT made a good catch there. Really, I thought it was a closer play than it was in the game but looking at it on film, he was well in bounds. He left enough space there, Tom got the ball there up over the top of Greer and that was it.”

Here are some of the rest of the highlights of Belichick’s Q&A with the media:

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady,

Sebastian Vollmer, Kyle Arrington on M&M: ‘We had a good feeling it wasn’t going to be over’

10.14.13 at 12:02 pm ET
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Patriots offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer and defensive back Kyle Arrington joined Mut & Merloni on Monday morning to talk about Sunday’s thrilling 30-27 victory over the Saints.

Vollmer, a five-year veteran, has seen Tom Brady engineer comebacks before, but this one was something special.

“It definitely doesn’t get old,” Vollmer said. “While you’re in it, while the drive is going on, you can’t think about anything else but doing your job, but just looking back, you don’t want to have anybody else behind you, orchestrating that drive. We have all the trust in the world, he’s done it so many times in his career, and once again yesterday. There’s no doubt, I don’t want anybody else in there.”

Vollmer said the players did not lose hope after squandering a couple of opportunities late.

“We had a pretty good feeling we would get the ball back,” Vollmer said. “Our defense was playing good; they gave us the ball back three times. So, we had confidence and we knew we had to deliver. I think that’s what it was, everybody concentrating on their job and going through what you had practiced before, knowing what’s probably going to come and what you have to do. I think we were all quite confident, and we knew we had a chance.”

The Saints celebrated after stopping the Patriots twice inside the final three minutes, but Vollmer said he thought his team would get another opportunity to pull out the win.

“I saw [the Saints celebrating] a little bit while I was walking off the field, but I think we all knew — at least we had strong feelings about it — that we were going to get the ball back. Luckily, we did,” Vollmer said. “We had a good feeling it wasn’t going to be over then.”

That chance came because the Patriots defense continued to play stellar football, even with the loss of some more key players (Aqib Talib, Jerod Mayo) to injury.

“Hopefully we can continue to ride this momentum,” Arrington said. “Definitely a great win. That was a heck of a football team that we played yesterday. The goal from this point is to improve every week, and we’ll take it from there.”

Added Arrington: “We play for each other. We have such a great group of guys. It’s not about yourself. Everyone understands, it’s all about the team and what’s best for the team. Everybody understands just what their job is, and then they’re working as hard as they can to get that done.”

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Read More: Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Kyle Arrington, Rob Gronkowski

Tom Brady on D&C: ‘It’s the whole team that’s clutch’

10.14.13 at 9:52 am ET
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Tom Brady made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Monday, following Sunday’s dramatic 30-27 victory over the Saints.

The Patriots squandered two late opportunities but were given a final chance with 1:13 remaining following two stops by the New England defense.

“If the defense made the stop — which was pretty remarkable that they did, on two different occasions — I knew we were going to have some time,” Brady said. “I said after the game, our margin of error was going to be a lot more slim, and we were going to need a touchdown and not a field goal. But that’s what it took. We kind of sputtered there on our own 20, and then threw the pick on the next series, and then really had no margin of error. And we played our best football at the end.

“That’s what it takes. You go into these games and you never know how it’s going to play out. You go with your game plan and you have an idea, these are the matchups. Then you get in the game and you do what you’ve got to do to try to win. Our guys really fought through it yesterday, offensively and defensively. It was a great win. It was awesome.”

Kenbrell Thompkins caught the game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with five seconds remaining.

“We called a play and we had all four guys going to the end zone,” Brady recalled. “I kind of looked right and then looked left and saw him just kind of sneaking back there. And I just tried to put it up there where KT could have a chance, and he caught it right in the back corner. That was pretty cool.

“You talk about those things all the time, and situational football and last plays of the game. A lot of times we practice those plays, the last play of the game from the 17-yard line. I’d say that was probably the first one we completed that I can remember, including practice. It happened at the right time.”

Most of the credit for Sunday’s comeback has been going to Brady, but he’s quick to share the credit.

“Obviously the situations that not just me but all of our guys face, it’s not certainly one player on the team in football that can hit the home run that can win the game, you know what I mean? That’s not how football is played,” Brady said, “On that last drive I threw to a lot of different guys who made a lot of key catches. I would say that catch to Julian [Edelman] on the first play of that series was as big a play as we’ve had all season. Because without that play, you’re really in the hole.

“That’s a really clutch play by Julian to make that. That’s a really clutch play by Austin [Collie] to make that fourth-down play. And a clutch play by KT to make that catch. It’s the whole team that’s clutch. It’s not one player. Our defense stopping them situationally twice, with one first down basically ends the game, and our defense limits them to, I don’t know, three or four yards on one possession, and then three or four yards on the other possession. It’s always about our team and what our team’s capable of doing.

“I was happy to see — the best part for me was just looking in that huddle and realizing that every guy was ready to do what it took to win. That’s pretty clutch to me. We’ll use that going forward, and that’s going to give us some really good motivation over the course of the year that no matter what the situation is, we’re going to be able to try to figure a way out.”

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Read More: austin collie, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Rob Gronkowski

Kenbrell Thompkins knew Patriots ‘were going to get another chance’

10.14.13 at 12:32 am ET
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FOXBORO — If this keeps up, Kenbrell Thompkins is going to have a hard time keeping up his image as a humble rookie. After all, it’s not every undrafted rookie free agent that comes in and catches a game-winning pass from Tom Brady, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

But that’s exactly what happened when Thompkins got just enough space in the back left corner of the end zone and went up to catch Brady’s pass with five seconds left in the game, lifting the Patriots to a 30-27 win over the Saints Sunday at Gillette.

“It was just zone coverage. The DB let me get behind him and I just went up there and made the play,” Thompkins said. “Just excitement. More excitement just for my team, not necessarily for me but for my team. I know we worked so hard, we had a tough week of practice this week and just going out there and making that play for my team definitely meant a lot for me.

‘€œWe just knew that it was going to come down to the last minute. Until that clock said all zeros on it, we were going to fight until the finish. And that’€™s what we did, we just went out there and fought to the finish.’€

Thompkins has been around just six games in New England but that’s long enough to know that even when he’s struggling like he was in the second half, when the game comes down to Tom Brady, the Patriots still like their chances.

‘€œJust believing in this team,” Thompkins said. “We were saying on the sideline the whole time that we were going to get another chance. And when we get that chance, we have to take full advantage of it.’€

Read More: Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots, new orleans saints, nfl

Physical therapy helps Stevan Ridley get back to productive (and winning) form

10.14.13 at 12:17 am ET
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FOXBORO — Just one week away from the game made Stevan Ridley appreciate what he had.

The running back returned Sunday from a one week absence due to a knee injury and scored twice, a pair of short touchdown runs, to help lead the Patriots to a 30-27 win over the Saints Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

‘€œI’€™d be lying if I said it wasn’€™t (frustrating), but I just have to keep plugging away,” Ridley said. “In the grand scheme of things, I think God is teaching me patience. It’€™s not always going to go as we want it to, but at the end of the day, He’€™s got us in His hands so I’€™ve just got to keep pushing and keep working hard and I can’€™t lie, I’€™m happy about the outcome of today’€™s game. It’€™s tough to watch your team play and be at home on the couch. It’€™s a sinking feeling, so for me, I had to put myself in a position to come back out here and I’€™m just thankful they gave me a few plays to go out there and do what we needed to do, and we were able to pull it off.’€

After missing practice all three days after the win over the Falcons, Ridley had to sit out the game against the Bengals. He returned Sunday and accounted for a pair of red zone scores, helping the Patriots to a 17-7 halftime lead.

“Again, anything is possible,” Ridley said. “I went to therapy about two or three times a day and I did what I needed to do to get out here and help my team. It’s tough to sit and watch your team play and be at home on the couch. It’s a sinking feeling. For me, I just had to put myself in a position to get back out here. I’m just thankful they gave me a few plays to go out there and do what we needed to do and we were able to pull it off.

Ridley, who finished with 96 yards on 20 carries, motioned to his wrist after a one-yard plunge into the end zone in the second quarter, as if to say it’s about time to return to scoring touchdowns.

‘€œIt’€™s been a long time since I had been in the (end) zone, so I was just happy to be there,” said Ridley, who hadn’t scored since the playoff game against the Texans last January. “I really was. To come out here and find the endzone not once but twice, I’€™m blessed and thankful and I don’€™t take it for granted. It’€™s another day being out here on a Sunday getting to do what I love and it’€™s special. This team, the offensive line, the young receivers, (Tom) Brady, we played an exceptional game today.’€

Ridley also paid tribute to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins after the game, the wide receiver who caught the winning touchdown with five seconds left in the fourth quarter.

‘€œI’€™m going with Kenbrell Thompkins,” Ridley said. “He did his thing. KT has been exceptional since day-one when he got here and I’€™m happy for him. As a rookie, to make the game-winning catch, it gets no bigger. Tom is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game and he throws a pick the drive before, then comes out there and drives all the way down for the game-winning score. What more can you ask out of your leader? He put the team on his back and went out there and made the plays we needed to make. It’€™s a team victory overall. The defense did a great job of stopping everyone and we just stuck it out for 60 minutes and played some good football when we needed to.’€

Read More: New England Patriots, new orleans saints, nfl,

Snap Judgments: Tom Brady engineers another comeback in 30-27 win over Saints

10.13.13 at 7:43 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots pulled off a remarkable comeback Sunday, as quarterback Tom Brady engineered a fourth-quarter scoring drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left to lift New England to a shocking 30-27 win over the Saints.

After a 34-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Kenny Stills with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter, it appeared the Patriots were on their way to a second straight defeat. But Brady led an eight-play, 70-yard drive with no timeouts left, a series that culminated with the game-winner to Thompkins.

Brady went 25-for-43 for 269 yards with one touchdown and one pick, while Brees was 17-for-36 for 236 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.

Here are a few quick notes on the game.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE PATRIOTS

‘€¢ While Brady struggled throughout the third and into the fourth quarter, it was more late-game magic from the veteran quarterback, who put together his first comeback win of the year.

‘€¢ Hard not to mention the work of Stevan Ridley, who consistently picked up tough yards between the tackles and kept the chains moving at several key moments on the afternoon. The LSU product, who was out last week because of a knee injury, finished with a season-high 96 yards (on 20 carries) and two touchdowns. A good, consistent effort.

‘€¢ The New England defense again came up big several times on the afternoon, holding the Saints high-powered offense to 24 points. All around, there was a lot to like about the work of the defense, whether it was the fact that they held all-world tight end Jimmy Graham without a catch for the first time since midway through his rookie season. Then, there was the fact that they came away with another pick, this one in the fourth quarter on a Brees pass for Graham that was forced in there by the quarterback. Kyle Arrington came away with the takeaway, which led to a fourth-quarter field goal.

‘€¢ The New England special teamers played well, whether it was the season-long 54-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, another sold performance from punter Ryan Allen, or the work of punt returner Jullian Edelman.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE PATRIOTS

‘€¢ This was a bad game injury-wise for the Patriots. Offensive lineman Dan Connolly went out in the first half with a head injury, and the team announced early in the third quarter than he would not return. Meanwhile, cornerback Aqib Talib came to the sidelines early in the third quarter after a defensive stop with what appeared to be a hammy issue. He was back in the game on the next series, but left shortly after that — the team announced that it was a hip injury, and he didn’t return. Linebacker Jerod Mayo suffered a fourth-quarter shoulder injury. But the worst shot was a second-half head injury for Danny Amendola on a play where it appeared the receiver was knocked out for a brief moment in the wake of a collision on the sideline. He did not return to the game.

‘€¢ A look at the scoresheet seems to indicate that rookie receiver Aaron Dobson had a good afternoon (five catches on nine targets for 57 yards), but there were several key drops, including one late in the fourth quarter.

‘€¢ Brady was hit by a hard-charging Saints defense throughout the afternoon, taking a season-high five sacks on the day.

Read More: Drew Brees, Kenbrell Thompkins, Stevan Ridley, Tom Brady

Danny Amendola out with head injury, Aqib Talib leaves with hip injury, Dan Connolly out for rest of game

10.13.13 at 6:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In a disturbing flashback to last January’s AFC championship game, Aqib Talib was forced to leave Sunday’s game with an apparent leg injury. He appeared to grab his leg during the second drive of the second half by the Saints. He came back after one play and headed to the immediately to the sideline, where he slammed his helmet to the ground and was examined by team medical director Tom Gill.

The Patriots announced that Talib suffered a hip injury and was questionable to return.

After several minutes on the bench, where it appeared medical staff was looking at his leg, Talib was escorted down the steps and into the Patriots locker room.

Talib has been, by far, the Patriots’ most important player in the secondary over the first five weeks of the season and was shutting down Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in the first half, holding him to no catches on four targets.

Talib suffered a quadriceps injury in the AFC championship in January. Anquan Bolden caught a pair of touchdown passes in the second half, helping the Ravens to the Super Bowl.

Minutes later, Danny Amendola took a vicious hit to the head on the Patriots sideline on a run. He was drilled by Rafael Bush and Amendola had to be helped to the bench. He was taken to locker room and ruled out for the rest of the game.

In the first half, the Patriots lost starting right guard Dan Connolly to a head injury. Marcus Cannon filled in for Connolly along the line.

Read More: Aqib Talib, New England Patriots,
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