Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back where he belongs: Brady thrived in Patriots' 2-minute plan

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Although Tom Brady had not completed an NFL game in 588 days before Monday night because of a severe knee injury that required three operations, he does remember how to finish.

After misfiring early, Brady threaded 11 of his last 13 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns in rallying the New England Patriots from an 11-point deficit with 5:32 left to an improbable 25-24 victory against the Buffalo Bills.

It was the 29th time the two-time Super Bowl MVP led the Patriots to victory when they faced a fourth-quarter deficit or tie. And it was one of his most significant comebacks for it showed an injury suffered early in last season's opener did nothing to diminish his confidence.

According to wide receiver Randy Moss, Brady essentially promised the come-from-behind win against Buffalo when it seemed as if the Bills had secured a stunning upset.

"When Tom came in the huddle at 5:32 and said, 'Guys, let's get it going. We're going to win this game,' everything just went positive from there," Moss said.

Brady says he didn't think all was lost because of the amount of time remaining and the fact that New England had all three of its timeouts. "I was thinking if we can get down the field before that two-minute warning, it's going to put a lot of pressure on them," he said.

Using a no-huddle offense, he took New England 81 yards in an 11-play drive capped by an 18-yard scoring toss to Benjamin Watson. That narrowed the deficit to 24-19 when his pass for the two-point conversion failed with 2:10 left. But Bills return man Leodis McKelvin fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, and the Patriots had the opportunity they needed at the Buffalo 31 with 1:56 to play.

Brady nailed three consecutive passes, culminating in a strike to Watson from 18 yards out. For all of his time away from the game, the quarterback acted as if he had never left.

"They've done it a lot. They've done it a lot together," disheartened Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "They are certainly talented, and they are well-coached and well-led on that field, too. He is the guy."

Brady needed all of 60 minutes to reassert himself and to show teammates and fans he still thrives on pressure.

"Two-minute drives are always fun for a quarterback," he said, "because you're spread out, the pass rush starts getting a little bit tired, you start getting a really good feel for the coverages."

His pinpoint accuracy in those frantic last few minutes recalled 2007, when his mastery resulted in a single-season-record 50 touchdown passes, 4,806 yards and the league's first 16-0 regular season before the New York Giants ruined the Patriots' bid for perfection with a 17-14 upset in Super Bowl XLII.

Brady recovered from an erratic first half marked by defensive end Aaron Schobel's 26-yard interception return for a Bills score to complete 39 passes — the highest total in his 10-year career for a non-overtime game — in 53 attempts for 378 yards and two scores and the interception.

Then he turned his focus on the need to improve as he eyed Sunday's visit to the AFC East rival New York Jets.

"We've got to find ways to play better situationally, Brady said. "It starts with me and taking better care of the ball and making the throws when I have guys open, making better and more efficient reads and making more accurate throws."

It sounds as if he never left.


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