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Rally recalls Super season
It took the Immaculate Incompletion, and officials putting bonus time back on the clock twice, but the New England Patriots are still Brady's Bunch, still able to believe they can defend their Super Bowl title in 2003.
"That was a wild one," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I can't remember too many games like that I've been part of. It was a situation where, really, we had to do so many things right in the last 20 minutes for the game to end up like it did. It was pretty amazing."
Apparently doomed while trailing by 21 points in the third quarter, New England made the plays, got the replays and, in an almost incomprehensible finish that took slow motion, official reviews and might yet require an act of Congress to sort out, the Patriots overtook the Bears 33-30 Sunday at Memorial Stadium.
The Patriots (5-4) rode this same type of roller coaster to a Super Bowl victory last season coming from behind, stopping hearts and climbing on quarterback Tom Brady's young but broad shoulders.
Still, before Sunday's rally began, Brady, a third-year player out of Michigan, fumbled after a sack, then whistled an interception into the hands of linebacker Brian Urlacher.
"If you're going to make bad plays at the beginning, you're going to have to make a lot more good plays at the end," Brady said. "For some reason, I always thought we had a shot."
When New England was down 27-6, it would have been hard to find many people not wearing No. 12 in red, white and blue, who thought so.
He took the Bears' hits and kept on clicking. He showed Broadway Joe Namath cool as the clock ticked down. And he made gutsy calls for a quarterback keeper on fourth-and-3 in the last minute and for the winning 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver David Patten with 21 seconds left.
"I see a lot and I get a feel for stuff," Brady said.
Roughly a quarter and a half remained when the Bears built the three-touchdown lead, but in less than 18 minutes Brady led the Patriots to five scores, including touchdown passes of 15, 36 and 20 yards and field goals of 42 and 25 yards by Adam Vinatieri. He's the Patriots' other resident miracle worker, who had already booted a team-record 57-yarder with a brisk breeze behind it.
"I said to coach Belichick, 'Let's try,"' said Vinatieri, whose kicks won an AFC playoff game over Oakland and the Super Bowl over St. Louis last season. "We had a lot of tough games last year."
Those triumphs carried more obvious meaning, but this one moved the Patriots into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East although the final minute brought more perils than "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
It was 30-25 Bears when the Patriots took over at their own 44-yard line with 1 minute 50 seconds to go and no timeouts. On the fourth play, Brady attempted a pass to tight end Cameron Cleeland. Bears defensive end Bryan Robinson intercepted. He juggled the ball, took a couple of steps and fumbled. Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin recovered. Game, set, match, Bears? Nope.
Upon further review, it was decreed Robinson never had possession. Incomplete.
Belichick said he had no doubts.
"I thought he dropped it right away," Belichick said. "I was standing right in front of him."
Meanwhile, officials put seven seconds back on the clock54 seconds remaining. On the next play, Brady dove for 3 yards and a first down. Bold call. Two plays later, as Brady was nearly sacked, he flipped a shovel pass to Faulk for 7 yards.
"I don't know how close it was, but he got it to me," Faulk said. "It was a great play by Tom. It was a crazy game."
Once again, officials put seven seconds back on the clock28 seconds to go. Next play, Bradywho finished 36-for-55 for 328 yardswon it with a perfect strike to Patten, who barely got both feet down in the end zone. That play, too, withstood an official replay review.
Patriots win. Luck? Will? Skill?
"They made the right calls," Brady said.
So did he.