FOXBORO - Patriot fans have seen it all before, well, 30 times now that Patriot quarterback Tom Brady has engineered a fourth quarter comeback to produce a victory.
Facing a 10-point deficit seven seconds into the fourth quarter, Brady then completed 16 of 24 passes for 156 yards, setting up a TD and two field goals by Stephen Gostkowski in the dramatic 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.
"I am telling you, the first half we just didn't play well and the second half we were sporadic," said Brady. "I know I missed some reads out there and some open receivers so I have to do a better job of getting us the ball and getting those guys the ball and keeping those chains moving."
It wasn't that Brady completed just seven first-half passes, it was the fact that he threw the ball just 13 times and other than a 22-yard run on reverse by WR Brandon Tate, the Patriots netted just 16 yards on the ground. Not to mention, the Patriots had the ball for merely nine minutes.
"We never felt like we were out of the game," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "We made some plays, they made some plays. It was just a back and forth battle the whole way."
And Brady delivered the W, orchestrating an 60-yard drive which resulted in a TD pass to Deion Branch and an 80-yard drive which resulted in Gostkowski's game-tying field goal with 1:51 left in the fourth quarter.
"It feels good to win down 10 points in the fourth quarter," added Brady, who won his 23rd straight regular season start at home (surpassing John Elway in the NFL record books). "It was a battle.
"You can't go in there and they have the ball for a while and then you go out there and go three and out, which we did a few times. You have to be able to protect the defense, we have to go out there and put together drives."
The comeback marked the seventh time that Brady led New England back from a deficit of 10 points or more in the fourth quarter. Last season, he did it against Buffalo, the Patriots trailing 24-13 with 5:32 left in a 25-24 win
Mayo all over
Patriot LB Jerod Mayo totaled the second-most tackles (18) in a single game in his brief NFL career, having had 23 against the Jets during his rookie season in November of 2008. Mayo has 64 tackles thus far and is well within a few stops of being the first New England player to have three consecutive 100-tackle seasons since Lawyer Milloy registered five straight from 1997 through 2001
Twice Bill Belichick threw the red flag to challenge officials' decisions, one an a potential fumble by Patriot WR Aaron Hernandez after a catch, then a rush by Ravens QB Joe Flacco and the spotting of the ball. "The second one was right in front of us, Flacco had the yardage and then the ball came loose. It just didn't look to me like he had it. The first one, we got a good call from the guys upstairs. They saw the replay and said his (Hernandez) elbow hit. That one really didn't seem that close."
Secondary to none
Only Baltimore WR Derrick Mason (eight catches for 100 yards) was able to exploit the Patriots' defensive secondary. RB Ray Rice had eight catches, Anquan Boldin had just four for 63 yards and tight end Todd Heap had three catches, Ravens QB Joe Flacco throwing for 285 yards. "Everybody did their job better later in the game than we did early in the game," said Patriot safety Brandon Meriweather, the Ravens being forced to punt on their final five possessions of the second half and in overtime. "We were all communicating, we were having fun."
Patriot rookie CB Devin McCourty, flagged for a first-quarter pass interference penalty, which helped set up Baltimore's first TD, came back and played strongly during the second half, breaking up a third-down pass intended for Heap along the right sideline. "It just felt good to make a play, I had some bad plays earlier in the game. Flacco threw the ball up and I was just going up and challenging Heap on the play. Each week you come into a game focused on stopping the run (the Ravens totaled 99 yards). Especially when you play Baltimore, if you don't they'll just keep running."
Oh, Danny boy
Patriot free agent RB Danny Woodhead had another productive game with a team-best 63 yards rushing (on 11 carries) and caught five passes for 52 yards. "We just had to score points, that was all there was to it," he said of the second-half offensive surge. "We just had to keep grinding away. I don't look back, really, on this win or that win just because I'm a very present guy in the present time." His 115 total yards was the first by a Patriot since Corey Dillon had 67 yards rushing and 59 receiving against Tennessee in 2006, just the sixth player in New England history to have more than 60 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in a game
Patriot WR Wes Welker extended his pass-catching streak to 68 regular season games, 54 with the Patriots. He had seven catches for 53 yards. "It's definitely up there," said Welker of the rate of physical play by Baltimore. "They are definitely a very physical team and we knew it was going to be that. The thing about this game is that it could have gone either way. They're (wins) all gratifying, but to win in overtime like that and a physical game like we had was huge."
Newly-acquired veteran TE Alge Crumpler was named a team captain by Bill Belichick during the week, "it was an honor, that I just continue to do the things that I've set forth from the first day I stepped into this organization - that's help the team win. I've been through a lot of situations, I didn't expect this, but I embrace the opportunity. We believe in this locker room that we can get it done."
Rookie TE Aaron Hernandez had four receptions for 61 yards and leads the Patriots with 301 receiving yards through five games, but had two glaring drops in the fourth quarter and in overtime
"This is probably one of the biggest wins around here in a long, long time," said veteran Patriot nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "This was the most physical game I've ever played in. A lot of guys were here for the playoff game last year and understood what this game meant."