It was going to take a pretty incredible performance to overshadow what Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson did at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Leave it to Tom Brady to deliver just that.
With deadly accurate downfield strikes, a handful of Houdini-like escapes from the New England pass rush, some nifty scrambles to pick up first downs, and a miraculous heave or two, Watson had racked up 280 yards passing, two touchdowns, and another 41 yards on the ground to put the Texans in the improbable position to knock off the Patriots. When Ka'imi Fairbairn hit a 36-yard field goal with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter, Houston pushed its lead to 33-28—and all its defense had to do was keep Brady and the Patriots out of the end zone to complete the upset.
Of course, that’s a pretty big ask. Brady put together a vintage game-winning march down the field, calmly capping the eight-play, 75-yard drive with a gorgeous back-shoulder touchdown strike to Brandin Cooks, who made an unreal toe-touch grab at the sideline.
Brady went 5-for-7 for 92 yards and a touchdown in that two-minute drill, adding a two-point conversion after the score—also to Cooks—to give the Patriots a 36-33 lead with 29 seconds remaining. On the subsequent Texans’ drive, Watson’s last-ditch Hail Mary throw was picked off, sealing New England’s comeback win. On the day, Brady finished 25-of-35 for 378 yards and five touchdowns for a near-perfect 146.2 passer rating, confirming what we probably all should’ve already known: Brady’s not close to being done in this league. It was his sixth career game with five-plus touchdown passes, tying Dan Marino for third all-time in such games, and it was 52nd career game-winning drive, behind only Peyton Manning.
After a shaky opening game performance in which Brady looked skittish and inaccurate, he has bounced back (and then some) the last two weeks, completing a combined 55 of 74 passes for 825 yards, eight touchdowns, and no picks for a 146.5 rating in two Patriots wins. There are still things to worry about if you’re a New England fan—the defense gave up 417 yards and far too many big plays to a rookie-quarterback-led offense, and the Patriots’ air of invincibility at home has eroded considerably in its first two games in Foxborough thus far. But with Brady under center, all those things just feel like details. The future Hall of Famer is still plenty capable of carrying the Patriots when they need him to.