FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Jabari Greer shouldered the blame for New Orleans’ first loss of the season.
And with a bye looming, the Saints’ cornerback will have a couple of weeks to think about it.
This one’s likely going to sting for a while, though.
Greer got out jumped in the back corner of the end zone by rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who hauled in Tom Brady’s 17-yard touchdown pass with 5 seconds remaining to lead the New England Patriots to a stunning 30-27 win over New Orleans on Sunday.
The improbable play capped a 70-yard drive with no timeouts after the Patriots got the ball with 1:13 to go.
It also was the 37th game in which Brady led New England to victory from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie.
“That’s something that you’ll replay in your mind for a long time. It’s going to be hard to digest,” Greer said.
“We fought hard, we’re resilient, and it happens like that. For it to happen to me, I’ll just have to bear the burden for this week and get ready for Buffalo.
“And I can do it. I’m a big boy. Just got to make that play next time.”
The Saints (5-1) had taken a 24-23 lead with 3:29 remaining on Drew Brees’ 34-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills, but couldn’t put away New England.
The Patriots (5-1) survived an interception by Keenan Lewis on their first snap after Garrett Hartley’s 39-yard field goal made it 27-23.
Brady started the winning drive with completions of 23 yards to Julian Edelman, 15 to Austin Collie and 6 to Aaron Dobson.
But Brady threw two incompletions before connecting with Collie for a 9-yard gain on fourth down and a first down at the 17.
That’s when Brady found Thompkins for the winning touchdown in the left side of the end zone.
“Not as fun watching from the other side,” said former Patriot and current Saints tight end Benjamin Watson. “Hats off to their defense, doing a good job of getting the ball back to him two or three times, giving him a chance two or three times. And when you give him a chance that many times, things like that happen.”
New England continued the strong defense its played all year by holding star tight end Jimmy Graham without a catch for the first time in 46 games, dating back to the middle of his rookie season in 2010. He limped off the field after Kyle Arrington intercepted a pass intended for him, but returned.
“We know every week there’s going to be a plan for Jimmy Graham and a plan for (Darren) Sproles and a plan for (Marques) Colston, and that’s just opportunities for guys like Ben Watson to have big days and these young receivers to continue to develop,” said Brees, who completed 17 of 36 passes for 236 yards with one interception.
“If they’re spending that much time worrying about you, then other guys can make them pay as well.
“That’s football, that’s the chess match that we play each Sunday.”
The Patriots were headed for their second straight loss one week after the Cincinnati Bengals beat them 13-6. Brady’s streak of 52 regular-season games with at least one touchdown pass ended in that defeat; Brees holds the NFL record with 54.
New England improved on offense with Stevan Ridley running for two touchdowns for a 17-7 halftime lead.
In the first half, the Patriots controlled the ball against New Orleans, which entered the game leading the NFL in time of possession. The Patriots scored on drives of 80, 66 and 60 yards one week after having just one drive of more than 35 yards in Cincinnati.
The Saints trailed by 10 points at halftime, but tied it by scoring on their first two possessions of the second half on a 28-yard field goal by Hartley and a 3-yard run by Khiry Robinson.
New England took a 3-0 lead on Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal on the first series of the game. New Orleans took its first lead on Brees’ 3-yard pass to Travaris Cadet, the first run or reception of the season by the running back.
Then Ridley scored twice in a span of six minutes in the second quarter on runs of 1 and 4 yards. On the second touchdown drive, Brady completed his last six passes for 64 yards.
“They had a good game plan for us,” Colston said. “Anytime you are playing a team this good on the road, you have to make plays for 60 minutes and we didn’t do that today.”