Both the Dallas and New England offenses seemed content to self-destruct each time their defenses came up with crucial turnovers or third-down stops.
But in the final two-and-a-half minutes, the Patriots offense turned this ugly duckling of a performance into the most graceful and elegant of swans.
From the shotgun and going no-huddle, Brady hit Hernandez with a 16-yard pass to start the decisive drive. Fellow tight end
Right afterward, he gained 10 before running back
Brady picked up the first down himself by QB-sneaking on 3rd-and-1 from the Cowboys’ 29. He then found Woodhead for 13 yards and Welker for six, setting up New England with a 1st-and-goal from the Dallas 8.
Trailing 16-13 with 27 seconds left, the Patriots took a quick timeout to strategize.
Set up for the easy, chip-shot field goal and take your chances in overtime?
Not Brady’s bunch.
They came out, guns blazing from the shotgun. They liked their chances taking three shots at the end zone before booting the game-tier.
But they wouldn’t need it.
On the first play after the timeout, Brady engineered the 32nd fourth-quarter comeback of his career when he hit Hernandez with the game-winning touchdown with 22 ticks left on the clock.
“We just knew it was time to step up,” Hernandez told reporters. “When you’ve got a quarterback like Tom, anything can happen as long as there’s time on the clock. He had enough time to get it done.”
“We did a lot of things very poorly,” left tackle
“It’s an ugly win. Yeah, you can’t get a better example than today,” added wide receiver
The Patriots defense had to be feeling sorry for themselves a bit. After all, they did their part, making life difficult for Dallas signal caller Tony Romo as best they could. Cornerback
They held the explosive Cowboys offense to just 16 points, and yet, it looked like it might not be enough to win.
Until Brady made magic.
“I knew we were going to score,” Arrington maintained. “I knew – whether it was going to be a field goal or a touchdown – I knew we were going to get some points. I was hoping it was definitely seven.”
And that’s what the Patriots got – seven. Even with that, New England finished with just 20 points, the lowest regular-season total since last November in Cleveland – a Patriots loss. The defensive coordinator for the Browns back then was the same guy in the same role on the Cowboys sideline Sunday in Foxborough: Rob Ryan, who also just happens to be a former Patriots assistant who won two Super Bowl rings with Bill Belichick.
He knows a thing or two about how to slow Brady down, but when it counted most, Ryan’s defense couldn’t stop the inevitable victory march of the Patriots.
It wasn’t pretty, but New England will take it.
“We didn’t make as many mistakes last year. We made way more mistakes this year. That was the whole game. All the bad football that we displayed on the football field – that was the difference between this year and last year,” Branch recalled, then added with a laugh, “Yeah, we lost last year. Somehow, we dug deeper and got a victory today.”
“I’m all about the W,” linebacker
“Great feeling, especially with the bye coming up,” echoed Arrington. “We can nurse the bumps and bruises and rest up a bit.”
“Huge win,” Hernandez concluded, “because with a loss, you’re thinking about it for a long time. Now we can enjoy this off week, get healthy, then come back strong.”
Isn’t that a beautiful thing?