The New England Patriots faced off against the undefeated New Orleans Saints on a beautiful autumn afternoon in Foxboro, MA on National television as the Fox Game of the Week. The game was close throughout, with neither team able to pull away. After a back-and-forth first quarter, the Patriots pulled ahead seventeen to seven at the half. However, Saints quarterback Drew Brees quickly drove the Saints down the field on back-to-back drives to tie it at seventeen in the third quarter. The Saints later drove and took the lead late in the fourth quarter.
New England had their opportunities in the second half, and despite strong defensive play from New England, the Patriots offense kept self-destructing. It looked like another example of the Patriots offense throwing the game away late in the fourth quarter and costing themselves the victory at home against a strong opponent. Instead, quarterback Tom Brady somehow, after two miserable drives ending in a turnover on downs and an interception, pulled out the game with a seventeen yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. Somehow, some way, and inexplicably as it seemed, the game ended as a thirty to twenty-seven Patriots victory over the Saints.
The second half opened with the Saints trying to establish the running game and spread the ball to different receivers. On the drive the Saints found wide receiver Kenny Stills for fourteen yards and former Patriots tight end Ben Watson for nineteen yards in the passing game on back-to-back plays. With running back Darren Sproles getting free for nineteen yards as well, the Saints went marching down the field in a hurry. The Patriots defense continued to try to deny the Saints top weapons. On a crucial third-and-eight, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had great protection and just overthrew his fourth option on the pass, Nick Toon, and the Saints were stopped in the Red Zone as the Patriots held onto a 17 to 10 lead.
The Saints offense had opportunities all game to run the ball against the diminished defensive front of the Patriots, however, they continued to try to force the ball to their top targets. Saints quarterback Drew Brees had backup tight end Ben Watson and wide receiver Nick Toon open or in favorable match-ups throughout the first half. When he took what was given to him, he was able to move the ball and put together scoring drives.
The Patriots had an offensive pass interference call on Aaron Dobson to negate a thirty yard pass and push the Patriots back to their own ten yard line to open the second half. Facing a third-and-thirteen, Brady overthrew a wide open Danny Amendola in the middle of the field. This was yet another poor pass by quarterback Tom Brady more than fifteen yards downfield. As this has happened again and again this season, it begs the question if Brady has lost his accuracy on deep passes. Too many times this season Brady has missed an open receiver more than fifteen yards downfield by either over or under-throwing the open target.
On the Saints next possession, cornerback Aqib Talib limped off the field, and the Saints started to run the ball more frequently. A six yard rumble and then thirteen yards put New Orleans into New England territory. Rookie running back Khiry Robinson ripped up the middle of the Patriots defense for sixteen yards and then on the next play running back Pierre Thomas went for seven. After converting the short yardage for another first down, the Saints were in the Red Zone with a first down at the New England fourteen. The Saints found Marques Colston for eleven yards and first and goal at the three. On second-and-goal, the Saints second touchdown came from an unheralded back again as Khiry Robinson punched it in from three yards to tie the game at seventeen.
With cornerback Aqib Talib off to the locker room, the Patriots defense was shorthanded and having trouble containing New Orleans. Now the missed opportunities on offense started to be highlighted. Too many blitzers allowed into the offensive backfield untouched in the first half. Quarterback Tom Brady missing open receivers with poor passes. Drives stalling out and forcing the Patriots into punts and a field goal suddenly loomed larger when the game was suddenly tied midway through the third quarter.