It wasn't exactly the way the play was drawn up.
Of course, the play was kind of drawn up on the sidelines during the game, so, it was still a bit of a work in progress when it was called.
With New England leading Atlanta19-10 midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday's game here at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots faced a third-and-six from the Falcons' 36-yard line. Quarterback Tom Brady, standing in the shotgun, took the snap and scanned the field over the middle and to his left.
]()"Coach[Bill] Belichicksaid, 'Well, what do you think about this?'" Brady explained later. "The guys that ran the play didn't run it all week in practice and they made an adjustment."
One of them was tight end Chris Baker, whose assignment was to run out to the flat while New England's other receivers were sent further downfield. When Baker turned back toward the pocket, he saw Brady eluding the grasp of a Falcon defender.
"It was an instinctive play," Baker said afterward.
The way it was designed, none of the other receivers was ahead of Baker on his side of the field, to Brady's right. They were all either toward the middle of the field or over to the left. So, with the presence of a seasoned veteran, Baker improvised. Instead of standing still, the eighth-year pro turned forward and charged up field, with Falcons linebacker Mike Petersonin hot pursuit.
"Because it was third-and-six," Belichick said Monday after watching the film, "I think Peterson was on him thinking, 'I want to get on him here because it's third-and-six. I want to be on him tight.' And then Chris just made the adjustment. But that really wasn't the route."
Sidestepping the Atlanta pass rush allowed Brady to turn and spot Baker streaking down the right sideline. Without hesitation, Brady stepped up and lofted the ball Baker's way.
Earlier in the game, Brady had taken several shots deep, but each time, either he overthrew his intended target or a Falcons defender made a great, last-second play to knock the ball away. This time, however, all the stars were aligned. Baker had enough separation from Peterson and Brady's pass dropped into his tight end's hands like a laser-guided bomb.
]()Baker made the catch and rumbled toward the pylon at the goal line. Inside the 10-yard line, Peterson got his mitts on Baker, but couldn't wrestle him to the ground until after Baker had reached the end zone. The score put New England up 26-10, essentially thwarting Atlanta's comeback hopes.
"To get the touchdown and put it out of reach, that was big for us," Baker told reporters in the post-game Patriots locker room. It was also big for Baker, who hadn't scored since November of 2007, when he was a member of the New York Jets.
"Chris has been really dependable for us since the day he got here," Brady remarked, "and he made a great catch and run. He's a threat out there for us."
The play was also a memorable one for Brady, as it marked the 200th touchdown pass of the quarterback's career. Baker ran off the field with the ball tucked under his arm, but insisted he had no idea it was a milestone for his QB.
"No, I didn't know that. I keep all my touchdown balls. So, [Brady and I] may have to talk about that one," he said with a smile. "That's good to know."
Belichick credited the Patriots offensive line with giving Brady the time he needed to make the play, and Brady with the gumption to see it through under duress.
"The protection was great. It's not often you have that much time against a good pass-rushing front like Atlanta. But Tom had a lot of confidence. He stood right in there and let the play develop and laid it out there perfectly for Chris."
The head coach added that he and his staff called the play hoping, at best, for nine yards and a first down. After so many failed attempts at the long ball in that game, Belichick and the Pats coaches weren't expecting to hit paydirt.
"Sometimes, when you least expect it, you get it," Belichick concluded. "We had our shots downfield yesterday, and that really wasn't one of them, but it turned out to be."
Adams gets belted
DL Titus Adamshas wrestled the Dirty Show Champions belt away from safety Brandon McGowan. The wrestling/boxing-style championship belt is awarded to one of the practice players of the week by assistant coach Pepper Johnson, who oversees all the scout team lineups.
Adams proudly slung the belt over the top of his locker while reporters and photographers looked on and recorded the moment. Nearby, McGowan admitted – playfully, of course – that he was disappointed that he had to give up the coveted prize.
The week ahead*
The Pats had their usual team meeting, treatment for those who needed it, and Monday film study session to put this week's game to bed. They'll have the NFL's traditional Tuesday off and be back on the practice field Wednesday afternoon to prepare for this Sunday's home game against the Baltimore Ravens.