Aaron Hernandez knew time was right to ‘step up’
|10.16.11 at 9:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — For 58 minutes, the Patriots offense didn’t look like the Patriots offense. Just ask Orlando Scandrick and the Cowboys, who pressured Tom Brady with three sacks, eight hits and two interceptions.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan looked like a genius again against Brady and the Patriots, just like last year, when Ryan’s Browns beat the Patriots, 34-14.
But the Cowboys biggest problem wasn’t Brady in the final five minutes, it was Jason Garrett going all conservative with the play-calling, drawing up three straight runs that yielded a three-and-out, handing the ball to Brady one final time with 2:31 left, and Dallas holding on for dear life at 16-13.
Brady marched the team right down the field, starting and ending the drive with bookend completions to Aaron Hernandez. The first one yielded 16 yards to the Patriots 36.
“When you have a great quarterback like Tom, anything can happen as long as there’s time on the clock,” Hernandez said. “He had enough time to get it done.”
Brady then spread the ball around precisely, finding Rob Gronkowski once, Wes Welker three times and Danny Woodhead twice before coming back to Hernandez on the final play with 22 ticks left on the clock.
“We just [have] a lot of good players out there,” Hernandez said. “We’ve got Wes, Deion [Deion Branch], Chad [Chad Ochocinco], me, and Gronkowski – so many weapons. It’s tough to cover all of us, especially when you have a quarterback who is going to put it in the right spot. We just knew it was time to step up. The type of players we have – everyone knows we have to step up and everyone stepped up.”
Hernandez, who directly contributed to one of New England four turnovers when he fumbled at the Cowboys 21 in the third quarter, would be called upon to step up and atone for that mistake with the game on the line.
Brady dropped back on 2nd-and-4 from the Cowboys 8 and didn’t hesitate in firing a strike to the first open man he saw. That was Hernandez on crossing pattern about seven yards deep in the end zone.
“I had an in-route and Gronkowski had an out-route and he’s a great player so he drew the safety’s attention and I came around and Tom made a great throw and I just had to make the catch,” Hernandez said.
“It was great protection,” Brady added. “Great catch by Aaron. A lot of guys made big plays on that drive. We really needed it. We really kind of squandered away some opportunities throughout the game but came up big when we needed it. The defense was incredible today. That’s a good offense with a lot of damn good football players. They [Patriots defense] really buckled down when they needed to, and offensively, we put together a drive when we needed to.”